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Molly's New Bonnbt. 



WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 



AN EVERYDAY STORY. 



BY 

MRS. GASKELL. 



WITH EIOHTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS BY OEORGE DU MAURIER 



/N TWO VOLUMES. 



VOL. I. 



LONDON : 
SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 05, CORN HILL. 

186G. 

[ The right of Translation is rei>erved.'\ 



CONTENTS OF VOLUME I. 



rUAr. '""" 

I. The Dawn ov a Gala Day ^ 

II. A Novice amongst the Gueat Folk *0 

III. Molly Gibson's Ciiildiiood 26 

IV. Mr. Gibson's Neiquboubs ^ 

V. Calf-Love - ■♦* 

VI. A Visit to the IIamleys - ^^ 

VII. FoKEsiiAnoM's of Love Perils ~ '2 

VIII. Drifting into Danger ^^ 

IX. The Widower and the Widow 9* 

X. A Crisis 103 

XI. Making Friendship ^21 

XII. PRKrABING for THE Wf.DDING '37 

XIII. Molly Gibson's New Friends 1*6 

XIV. Molly Finds Herself Patronized 157 

XV. The New Mamma 171 

XVI. The Bripe at Home... 180 

XVII. Trolble at Hamley Hall 190 

XVIII. Mr. O.snoRNE'9 Secret 202 

XIX. Cynthia's Arrival - 215 

XX. Mrs. Gibson's Visitors - 226 

XXI. The Half-Sisters 235 

XXII. The Old Syi iue's Troibles 249 

XXIII. Osborne Hamley Ueviews his Positiow 260 

XXIV. Mrs. Gibson's Ljttle Dinner 269 

XXV. Hollingford in a Bustle 276 

XXVI. A Charity Ball ._„ 285 

XXVH. Father and Sons 303 

XXVHI. Rivalry „ 311 

XXIX. Bvsii-FiGHTiNo 323 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Mollt's New Bonnet Frontispiece. 

A Love Letter To face page 46 

ViE ViCTIS 

The New Mamma 

Unwelcome Attentions 

Shakspeare and the Musical Glasses 

First Impressions 

Roger is Introduced and Enslaved 

"Td t'en Repentiras, Colin" 

" Wht, Osborne, is it You ? " 



85 
125 
162 
181 
218 
240 
272 
326 



WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

A\ EVKRY-DAV STORY. 



CILVPTER I. 
TIIK DAWX OF A fiALA DAY. 

To begin with the old rigmarole of cbiklliooil. In a country there 
was a shii'e, and in that shire there was a town, and in that town 
there was a house, and in that house there was a room, and in that 
room there was a bed, and in that bod there lay a little girl ; wide 
awake and longing to get up, but not daring to do so for fear of the 
unseen power in the next room ; a certain Betty, whose slumbers 
must not be disturbed until six o'clock struck, when she wakened 
of herself " as sure as clockwork," and left the household very little 
peace aftcr\N-ards. It was a June morning, and early as it was, the 
room was full of sunny warmth and light. 

On the drawers opposite to the little white dimity bed in which 
Molly Gibson lay, was a primitive kind of bonnet-stand on which was 
hung a bonnet, carefully covered over from any chance of dust with 
a large cotton handkerchief ; of so heavj* and serviceable a texture 
that if till" thing underneath it had been a flimsy fabric of gauze and 
lace and flowers, it would have been altogether " scomfished " (again 
to quote from Betty's vocabulary). But the bonnet was made of 
solid straw, and its only trimming was a plain white ribbon put over 
the crown, and forming the strings. Still, there was a neat little 
quilling inside, evei7 plait of which Molly knew, for had she not 
made it herself the evening before, with infinite pains ? and was 
there not a little blue bow in this quilling, the very first bit of such 
finen' Molly had ever had the prospect of wearing ? 

Vol. I. 1 



2 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Six o'clock now ! the pleasant, brisk ringing of the church hells 
told that ; calling every one to their daily work, as they had done for 
hundreds of years. Up jumped Molly, and ran with her hare little 
feet across the room, and lifted off the handkerchief and saw once 
again the bonnet ; the pledge of the gay bright day to come. Then 
to the window, and after some tugging she opened the casement, and 
let in the sweet morning air. The dew^ was already off the flowers in 
the garden below, but still rising from the long hay- grass in the 
meadows directly beyond. At one side lay the little town of Holling- 
ford, into a street of which Mr. Gibson's front door opened ; and 
delicate column:^, and little puffs of smoke were already beginning to 
rise from many a cottage chimney where some housewife was already 
up, and preparing breakfast for the bread-winner of the family. 

Molly Gibson saw all this, but all slie thought about it was, 
" Oh ! it will be a fine day ! I vras afraid it never, never would 
come ; or that, if it ever came, it would be a rainy day ! " Five- 
and-forty years ago, children's pleasures in a country town were very 
simple, and Molly had lived for twelve long years without the occur- 
rence of any event so great as that which was now impending. Poor 
child ! it is true that she had lost her mother, which was a jar to the 
"whole tenour of her life ; but that was hardly an event in the sense 
referred to ; and besides, she had been too young to be conscious of 
it at the time. The pleasure she was looking forward to to-day was 
her first share in a kind of aimual festival in Hollingford. 

The little straggling town faded away into country on one side 
close to the entrance-lodge of a great park, where lived my Lord and 
Lady Cumnor: " the earl " and 'Ithe countess," as they vrcre always 
called by the inhabitants of the town ; where a very pretty amount 
of feudal feeling still lingered, and showed itself in a number of 
simple ways, droll enough to look back upon, but serious matters 
of importance at the time. It was before the passing of the Reform 
Bill, but a good deal of liberal talk took place occasionally between 
two or three of the more enlightened freeholders living in Holling- 
ford ; and there vras a great "Whig family in the county who, from 
time to time, came forward and contested the election with the rival 
.Tory family of Cumnor. One would have thought that the above- 
mentioned liberal-talking inhabitants of Hollingford would have, at 
least, admitted the possibility of theii- voting for the Hely-Hamson 
"who represented their own opinions. But no such thing. " The 
earl " was lord of the manor, and owner of much of the land on 



THK DAWN OF A fiALA DAY. 8 

which IlollinpforJ was built ; ho tind his hduscholil wcro fed, nnd 
doctored, nnd, to n certain meiisure, clothed by tho good people of the 
town ; their fathers' grandfathers had always voted for tho eldest son 
of Cinnnor Towers, and following in tho ancestral track, every man- 
jack in the place gave his vote to tho liege lord, totally irrespective 
of snch chimeras as political opinion. 

This was no unusual instance of the inflnoncc of tho great land- 
owners over humbler neighbours in those days before railways, and it 
was well for a place where the powerful family, who thus overshadowed 
it, wcro of so respectable a character as the Cumnors. They expected 
to be submitted to, and obeyed ; tho simple worship of tho towns- 
people was accepted by tho earl and countess as a right ; and they 
v.-onld have stood still in amazement, and with a horrid memory of 
the French sansculottes who were the bugbears of their youth, had 
any inhabitant of Hollingford ventured to set his will or opinions in 
opposition to those of the carl. But, yielded all that obeisance, they 
did a good deal for the town, and were generally condescending, and 
often thoughtful and kind in their treatment of their vassals. Lord 
Cumnor was a forbearing landlord ; putting his steward a little on one 
side sometimes, and taking tho reins into his own hands now and then, 
much to the annoyance of tho agent, who was, in fact, too rich and 
independent to care greatly for prcsci-ving a post where his decisions 
might any day bo overturned by my lord's taking a fancy to go 
" pottering" (as the agent iiToverently expressed it in the sanctuary 
of his own home), which, being intcqireted, meant that occasionally 
the carl asked his own questions of his own tenants, and used his 
own eyes and ears in tho management of the smaller details of his 
property. But his tenants liked my lord all the better for this habit 
of his. Lord Cumnor had certainly a little time for gossip, which 
he contrived to combine with tho failing of personal intervention 
between the old land-steward and tho tenantry. But, then, the 
countess made up by her unapproachable dignity for this weakness 
of the carl's. Once a year she was condescending. She and tho 
ladies, her daughters, had set up a school ; not a school after the 
manner of schools now-a-days, where far better intellectual teaching 
is given to tho boys and girls of labourers and work-people than 
often falls to the lot of their betters in worldly estate ; but a school 
of tho kind we should call " industrial,"' where girls are taught to 
sew beautifully, to be capital housemaids, and pretty fair cooks, and, 
above all, to chess neatly in a kind of charity uniform devised by 

1—2 



4 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

the ladies of Cumuor Towers ; — wliite caps, white tippets, check 
aprons, hlue gowns, and ready curtseys, and "please, ma'ams," 
being de r'ujueur. 

Now, as the countess was absent from the Towers for a consider- 
able part of the year, she was glad to enlist the sympathy of the 
Hollingford ladies in this school, with a view to obtaining their aid 
as visitors during the many months that she and her daughters were 
away. And the various unoccupied gentlewomen of the town re- 
sponded to the call of their liege lady, and gave her their service as 
required ; and along with it, a great deal of whispered and fussy 
admiration. " How good of the countess ! So like the dear countess 
— always thinking of others ! " and so on ; while it was always sup- 
posed that no strangers had seen Hollingford properly, unless they had 
been taken to the countess's school, and been duly impressed by the 
neat little pupils, and the still neater needlework there to be inspected. 
In return, there was a day of honour set apart every summer, 
when with much gracious and stately hospitality. Lady Cumnor 
and her daughters received all the school visitors at the Towers, the 
great femily mansion standing in aristocratic seclusion in the centre 
of the large park, of which one of the lodges was close to the little 
town. The order of this annual festivity was this. About ten 
o'clock one of the Towers' carriages rolled through the lodge, and 
drove to different houses, wherein dwelt a woman to be honoured ; 
picking them up by ones or twos, till the loaded carriage drove back 
again through the ready portals, bowled along the smooth tree-shaded 
road, and deposited its covey of smartly-dressed ladies on the great 
flight of steps leading to the ponderous doors of Cumnor Towers. 
Back again to the town ; another picking up of womankind in their 
best clothes, and another return, and so on till the whole party were 
assembled either in the house or in the really beautiful gardens. 
After the proper amount of exhibition on the one part, and admira- 
tion on the other, had been done, there was a collation for the visitors, 
and some more display and admiration of the treasures inside the 
house. Towards four o'clock, cofiee was brought round ; and this 
Avas a signal of the approaching carriage that was to take them back 
to their own homes ; whither they returned with the happy con- 
sciousness of a well-spent day, but with some fatigue at the long- 
continued exertion of behaving their best, and talking on stilts for so 
many hours. Nor were Lady Cumnor and her daughters free from 
something of the same self-approbation, and something, too, of the 



Tin: DAWN OF A fiALA DAY. 6 

finmo fiitiguo ; tho fatigue thiit always follows on conscious efforts to 
licliavo as will lit'st pleiiso the society yon arc in. 

For tho first time in her lifi', Molly Clihson was to bt; included among 
the guests at tho Towers. She was much too young to bo a visitor 
nt tho school, so it was not on that account that she was to go ; but 
it lia«l so liapponed that one day when Lord Cuninor was on a 
" pottorin;,' ■' expedition, he had nut Mr. Gibson, thr doctor of the 
noighbourhood, coming out of the farm-house my lord was entering ; 
and having some small question to ask tho surgeon (Lord Cumnor 
seldom passed any one of his aciinaintancc without asking a question 
of some sort — not always attending to the answer ; it was his mode 
of conversation), he accompanied Mr. Gibson to the out-building, to 
a ring in tho wall of which the surgeon's horse was fastened. Molly 
was there too, sitting square and quiet on her rough little pony, 
waiting for her father. Her grave eyes opened large and wide at the 
close neighbourhood and evident advance of " the earl ; " for to her 
little imagination the grey-haired, red-faced, somewhat clumsy man, 
was a cross between an archangel and a king. 

" Your daughter, eh, Gibson ? — nice little girl, how old '? Pony 
wants grooming though," patting it as he talked. " What's your 
name, my dear? He is sadly behindhand with his rent, as I was 
saying, but if he is really ill, I must see after Sheepshanks, who is a 
hardish man of business. ^Yhat's his complaint ? You'll come to 
our school-scrimmage on Thursday, little girl — what's-your-name ? 
Mind you send her, or bring her, Gibson ; and just give a word to 
your groom, for I'm sure that pony was not singed last year, now, 
was he ? Don't forget Thursday, little girl — what's-your-name ? — 
it's a promise between us, is it not ? "' And oft' the earl trottcnl, 
attracted by the sight of tho farmer's eldest son on the other side of 
the yard. 

Mr. Gibson mounted, and ho and Molly rode olV. They did not 
speak for some time. Then she said, " May I go, papa '? " in rather 
an anxious little tone of voice. 

" Where, my dear?" said he, wakening up out of his own pro- 
fessional thonghts. 

'• To the Towers — on Thursday, you know. That gentleman " 
(she was shy of calling him by his title), " asked me." 

'* Would you like it, my dear ? It has always seemed to me 
rather a tiresome piece of gaiety — rather a tiring day, I mean — 
beginning so early — and the heat, and all that." 



b WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

" Ob, papa ! " said Mollv, reproacMully. 

" You'd like to go then, would you ? " 

" Yes ; if I may ! — He asked me, you know. Don't you tliink 
I may ? — he asked me twice over." 

" Well ! we'll see — yes ! I think we can manage it, if you wish 
it so much, Molly." 

Then they were silent again. By-and-by, Molly said, — 

" Please, papa — I do wish to go, — but I don't care about it." 

" That's rather a puzzling speech. But I suppose you mean you 
don't care to go, if it will be any trouble to get you there. I can 
easily manage it, however, so you may consider it settled. You'll 
want a white frock, remember ; you'd better tell Betty you're going, 
and she'll see after making you tidy." 

Now, there v/ere two or thi-ee things to be done by Mr. Gibson, 
before he could feel quite comfortable about Molly's going to the 
festival at the Towers, and each of them involved a little trouble on 
his part. But he was very willing to gratify his little girl ; so the 
next day he rode over to the Towers, ostensibly to visit some sick 
housemaid, but, in reality, to throw himself in my lady's way, and 
get her to ratify Lord Cumnor's invitation to Molly. He chose his 
time, with a little natural diplomacy ; which, indeed, he had ofteu to 
exercise in his intercourse v/ith the great family. He rode into the 
stable-yard about twelve o'clock, a little before luncheon-time, and 
yet after the worry of opening the post-bag and discussing its con- 
tents was over. After he had put up his horse, he went in by the 
back-way to the house ; the " House " on this side, the " Towers" 
at the fi'ont. He saw his patient, gave his directions to the house- 
keeper, and then went out, vrith a rare wild-flower in his hand, to 
find one of the ladies Tranmere in the garden, where, according to 
his hope and calculation, he came upon Lady Cumnor too, — now 
talking to her daughter about the contents of an open letter which 
she held in her hand, now directing a gardener about certain 
bedding-out plants. 

" I was calling to see Nanny, and I took the opportunity of 
hringing Lady Agnes the plant I was telling her about as growing 
on Cumnor Moss." 

" Thank you, so much, Mr. Gibson. Blamma, look ! this is the 
Drosera rotundifu!ii( I have been wanting so long." 

" Ah ! yes ; very pretty I daresay, only I am uo botanist. 
Nanny is better, I hope ? We can't have any one laid up next 



TUB DAWN OF A G.VLA DAY. 7 

wetk, for tlio house will be quite full of people,— ami Uoro arc the 
Diuibys wiiilins to olVor tlieniselves as well. Ouo cornea down for u 
foiUii-ht i.l' (luiot, ut Wkitsuutido, ami leaves half one's establish- 
ment in town, and as soon as people know of our being licrc, we get 
letters without end, longinj^ for a breath of cnunti7 air, or saymg 
how lovely the Towoi-s must look iu spring ; and I must own, Lord 
Cumuor is a great deal to bkimo for it all, for as soon as ever wc arc 
down here, he rides about to all the ucighboui's, and invites them to 
come over and spend a few days." 

'* We shall go back to town on Friday the Iftth," said Lady 
Agues, in a consolatory tone. 

" Ah, yes ! as soon as we have got over the school visitors' all'air. 
iUit it is a week to that happy day." 

'• By the way ! " said Mr. Gibson, availing himself of the good 
opening thus presented, " I met my lord at the Cross-trees Farm 
yesterday, and he was kind enough to ask my little daughter, who 
was with mo, to bo one of the party here on Thursday ; it would 
give the Lissic great pleasure, I believe." He paused for Lady 
Cumnor to speak. 

'• Oh, well ! if my lord asked her, I suppose she must come, but 
I wish he was not so amazingly hospitable ! Not but what the little 
girl will be quite welcome ; only, you see, he met a younger Miss 
Browning the other day, of whose existence I had never heard." 

" She visits at the school, mamma," said Lady Agues. 

" Weil, perhaps she does ; I never said she did not. I knew 
there was one visitor of the name of Browning ; I never knew there 
were two, but, of course, as soon as Lord Cumnor heard there was 
another, he must needs ask her ; so the carriage will have to go 
backwards and forwai'ds four times now to fetch them all. So your 
daughter can come quite easily, Mr. Gibson, .ind I shall be veiy glad 
to see her for your sake. She can sit bodl;iu with the l^.rownings, 
1 suppose ? You'll arrange it all with them ; and mind you got 
Nanny well up to her work next week." 

Just as Mr. Gibson was going away, Lady Cumnor called after 
him, '• Oh ! by-the-by, Clare is hero ; you remember Clai'c, don't 
you ? She was a patient of yours, long ago." 

" Clare," he repeated, in a bewildered tftuc. 

" Don't you recollect her '? Miss Clare, our old governess," said 
Lady Agues. *' About twelve or fourteen years ago, before Lady 
Cuxhavcn was married." 



8 WIYES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Ob, yes! " said lie, "Miss Clare, who had the scarlet fever 
here ; a very pretty delicate girl. But I thought she was married ! " 

*' Yes ! " said Lady Cumuor. " She was a silly little thing, and 
did not know when she was well off ; we were all very fond of her, 
I'm sure. She went and married a poor curate, and became a stupid 
Mrs. Kirkpatrick ; but we always kept on calling her ' Clare.' And 
now he's dead, and left her a widow, and she is staying here ; and 
we are racking our brains to find out some way of helping her 
to a livelihood without parting her from her child. She's some- 
where about the grounds, if you like to renew your acquaintance with 
her." 

" Thank you, my lady. I am afraid I cannot stop to-day. I 
have a long round to go ; I have stayed here too long as it is, I am 
afraid." 

Long as his ride had been that day, he called on the Miss 
Brownings in the evening, to arrange about Molly's accompanying 
them to the Towers. They were tall handsome women, past their 
first youth, and inclined to be extremely complaisant to the widowed 
doctor. 

" Eh dear ! Mr. Gibson, but wc shall be delighted to have her 
with us. You should never have thought of asking us such a thing," 
said Miss Browning the elder. 

" I'm sure I'm hardly sleeping at nights for thinking of it," said 
Miss Phosbe. " You know I've never been there before. Sister has 
many a time ; but somehow, though my name has been down on the 
visitors" list these three years, the countess has never named me in 
her note ; and you know I could not push myself into notice, and go 
to such a grand place without being asked ; how could I ? " 

"I told Phoebe last yeai-," said her sister, "that I was sure 
it was only inadvertence, as one may call it, on the part of the 
countess, and that her ladyship would be as hurt as any one when 
she did not see Phoebe among the school visitors ; but Phoibe has 
got a delicate mind, you see, Mr. Gibson, and all I could say she 
would not go, but stopped here at home ; and it spoilt all my pleasure 
all that day, I do assure you, to think of Phoebe's face, as I saw it 
over the window-blinds, as I rode away ; her eyes were full of tears, 
if you'll believe me." »» 

" I had a good cry after you was gone, Sally," said Miss Phoebe; 
" but for all that I think I was right in stopping away from where I 
was not asked. Don't you, Mr. Gibson ? " 



Tin; DAWN OF A (JAI-A DAY. 9 

" Certainly," eaiJ ho. " Ami you sic you aro f,'oing this year; 
and last year it raiiu'd." 

'* Yes ! I ri'iiu'iiilH r ! I set myself to tidy my drawers, to striug 
myself np, as it Moro ; and I was so takcu up with what 1 was about 
that I was quito startled when I heard the rain beating against the 
window-panes. '(Joodness me !' said I to myself, ' whatever will be- 
eomo of sister's white sntin shoes, if she has to walk about on soppy 
grass after such rain as this ? ' for, you see, I thought a deal about 
her having a pair of smart shoes ; and this year sho has gone and 
got me a white satin pair just as smart as hers, for a suqirise." 

" Molly will know she's to put on her best clothes," said Miss 
Bro^^^Iing. " Wo could perhaps lend her a few beads, or artificials, 
if she wants them. " 

" Molly must go in a cUaii white frock," said Mr. Gibson, rather 
hastily ; fi)r ho did not luliiiire tho Miss Brownings' taste in dress, 
and was unwilling to have his child decked up according to their 
fancy; he esteemed his old servant Betty's as tho more correct, 
because tho more simple. Miss Bro\niing had just a shade of 
annoyance in her tone as she drew herself up, and said, " Oh ! veiy 
well. It's quite right, I'm sure." But Miss Phoebe said, " Molly 
will look very nice in whatever she puts on, that's certain." 



( 10 ) 



CHAPTER II. 

A NOVICE AMOXGST THE GllEAT FOLK. 

At ten o'clock ou the eventful Thursday the To^vers' carriage began 
its work. Molly ^Ya3 ready long before it made its first appearance, 
although it had been settled that she and the Miss Brownings were 
not to go until the last, or fourth, time of its coming. Her face had 
been soaped, scrubbed, and shone brilliantly clean ; her frills, her 
frock, her ribbons were all snow-white. She had on a black mode 
cloak that had been her mother's ; it was trimmed round with rich 
lace, and looked quaint and old-fashioned on the child. For the first 
time in her life she wore kid gloves ; hitherto she had only had 
cotton ones. Her gloves were far too large for the little dimpled 
fingers, but as Betty had told her they wore to last her for years, it 
Avas all very well. She trembled many a time, and almost turned 
faint once with the long expectation of the morning. Betty might 
say what she liked about a watched pot never boiling ; Molly never 
ceased to watch the approach through the winding street, and after 
tvi^o hours the carriage came for her at last. She had to sit very for- 
ward to avoid crushing the Miss Brownings' new dresses ; and yet 
not too forward, for fear of incommoding fat Mrs. Goodeuough and 
her niece, who occupied the front seat of the carriage ; so that alto- 
gether the fact of sitting down at all was rather doubtful, and to add 
to her discomfort, Molly felt herself to be very conspicuously placed 
in the centre of the carriage, a mark for all the observation of 
HoUingford. It was far too much of a gala day for the work of the 
little town to go forward with its usual regularity. Maid-servants 
gazed out of upper windows ; shopkeepers' wives stood on the door- 
steps ; cottagers ran out, with babies in their arms ; and little 
children, too young to know how to behave respectfully at the sight 
of an earl's carriage, huzzaed merrily as it bowled along. The 



A NOVICE AMONGar TUE OIIEAT 1 OLK. 



11 



Woman at tbo lodge held the gate open, and dropped a low curtsey to 
the liveries. And now tliey were in the Turk ; mid now they were 
in sight of the Towers, and silence fell upon the curriu>;e-full of 
ladies, only broken by one fuint remark from Mrs. Goodenough's 
niece, a stranger to the town, as they drew up before the double 
semicircle flight of steps which led to the door of the mansion. 

"They call that a perron, I believe, don't they '? " she asked. 
But the only answer she obtained was a simultaneous " hush." It 
was very awful, as Molly thought, and she half wished herself at 
homo again. But she lost all consciousness of herself by-aud-by 
when the party strolled out into the beautiful grounds, the like of 
which she had never even inurgiucd. Green velvet lawns, bathed in 
sunshine, stretched away on every side into the finely wooded park ; 
if there were divisions and ha-has between the soft sunny sweeps of 
grass, and the dark gloom of the forest-trees beyond, Molly did not 
see them ; and the melting away of exquisite cultivation into the 
wilderness had an inexplicable charm to her. Near the house there 
were walls and fences ; but they were covered with climbing roses, 
and rare honeysuckles and other creepers just bursting into bloom. 
Thero were flower-beds, too, scarlet, crimson, blue, orange ; masses 
of blossom lying on the greensward. Molly held Miss Browning's 
hand very tight as they loitered about in company with several other 
ladies, and marshalled by a daughter of the Towers, who seemed 
half amused at the voluble admiration showered down upon eveiy 
possible thing and place. Molly said nothing, as became her age 
and position, but every now and then she relieved her full heart by 
drawing a deep breath, almost like a sigh. Presently they came to 
the long glittering range of greenhouses and hothouses, and an 
attendant gardener was there to admit the party. Molly did not care 
for this half so much as for the flowers in the open air ; but Lady 
Agnes had a more scientific taste, she expatiated on the rarity of this 
plant, and the mode of cultivation required by that, till Molly began 
to feel verj- tired, and then very faint. She was too shy to speak for 
some time ; but at length, afraid of making a gi-euter sensation if 
she began to cry, or if she fell against the stands of precious flowers, 
she caught at Jliss Browning's hand, and gasped out — 

" May I go back, out into the garden '.' 1 can't breathe here ! " 
** Oh, yes, to bo sure, love. I daresay it's hard understanding 
for you, love ; but it's very fine and instructive, and a deal of Latin 
in it too.'' 



12 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

She turned hastily rountl not to lose another •word of Lady 
Agnes' lecture on orchids, and Molly turned back and passed out of 
the heated atmosphere. She felt better in the fresh air ; and unob- 
served, and at liberty, went fi-oin one lovely spot to another, now in 
the open park, now in some shut-in flower-garden, where the song of 
the birds, and the drip of the central fountain, were the only sounds, 
and the tree-tops made an enclosing circle in the blue June sky ; 
she went along without more thought as to her whereabouts than a 
butterfly has, as it skims from flower to flower, till at length she 
grew very weary, and wished to return to the house, but did not 
know how, and felt afraid of encountering all the strangers who 
would be there, unprotected by cither of the Miss Bi'ownings. The 
hot sun told upon her head, and it began to ache. She saw a great 
wide- spreading cedar- tree upon a burst of lawn towards which she 
was advancing, and the black repose beneath its branches lured her 
thither. There was a rustic seat in the shadow, and weary Molly 
sate down there, and presently fell asleep. 

She was startled from her slumbers after a time, and jumped to 
her feet. Two ladies were standing by her, talking about her. 
They were perfect strangers to her, and with a vague conviction that 
she had done something wrong, and also because she was worn-out 
with hunger, fatigue, and the morning's excitement, she began 
to cry. 

" Poor little woman ! She has lost herself; she belongs to some 
of the people from Hollingford, I have no doubt," said the oldest- 
looking of the two ladies ; she who appeared to be about forty, 
though she did not really number more than thirty years. She was 
plain-featured, and had rather a severe expression on her face ; her 
dress was as rich as any morning dress could be ; her voice deep and 
unmodulated, — what in a lower rank of life would have been called 
grufi'; but that was not a word to apply to Lady Cuxhavcn, the 
eldest daughter of the earl and countess. The other lady looked 
much younger, but she was in fact some years the elder; at first 
sight Molly thought she was the most beautiful person she had ever 
seen, and she was certainly a very lovely woman. Her voice, too, 
was soft and plaintive, as she replied to Lady Cuxhaven, — 

"Poor little darling! she is overcome by the heat, I have no 
doubt — such a heavy straw bonnet, too. Let me untie it for you, 
my dear." 

Molly now found voice to say — " I am Molly Gibson, please. I 



A NOVICE AMONGST THK ORKAT FOLK, 13 

canu» hero, with ^liss iSrowniiigs ; " for her great fcur was that hLo 
bhuiiKl be taken for an iiuauthori/ed intruder. 

" Miss BrowTiings ? " said Lady Cuxhaven to lier companion, an 
if iniiiiiriuf^ly. 

'* I think thoy were the two tall large young women that Lady 
Agues was talking about." 

" Oh, I daresay. I saw she had a number of people in tow ; " 
then looking again at Mt)lly, she said, "Have you had anything to 
eat, child, since you came? You look a very white little thing; or 
is it tlic heat ? " 

'• I have had nothing to cat,"' said Molly, rather pitcously ; for, 
indeed, before she fell asleep she had been very hungry. 

The two ladies spoke to each other in a low voice ; then the elder 
said in a voice of authority, which, indeed, she had always used in 
speaking to the other, " Sit still here, my dear ; we arc going to the 
liouse, and Clare shall bring you something to cat before you trj- to 
walk back ; it must be a quarter of a mile at least." So they went 
away, and Molly sat upright, waiting for the promised messenger. 
She did not know who Clare might be, and she did not care much 
for food now ; but she felt as if she could not walk without some 
help. At length she saw the pretty lady coming back, followed by a 
lootman with a small tray. 

" Look how kind Lady Cuxhaven is," said she who was called 
Clare. "She chose you out this little lunch herself ; and now you 
must try and eat it, and you'll bo quite right when you've had some 
food, darling — You need not stop, Edwards ; I will bring the tray 
back with me." 

There was some bread, and some cold chicken, and some jelly, 
and a glass of wine, and a bottle of sparkling water, and a bunch of 
grapes. Molly put out her trembling little hand for the water ; but 
slie was too faint to hold it. Clare put it to her mouth, and she took 
a long draught and was refreshed. I'.ut she could not eat ; she tried, 
but she could not ; her headache was too bad. Clare looked bewil- 
dered. " Take some grapes, they will be the best for you ; yon must 
try and cat something, or I don't know how I shall got you to the 
house." 

" My head aches so," said Molly, lifting her heavy eyes wistfully. 

" Oh, dear, how tiresome ! " said Clare, still in her sweet gentle 
voice, not at all as if she was angry, only expressing an obvious 
truth. Molly felt very guilty and veiy unhappy. Clare went on. 



14 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

with a shade of asperity in her tone : " You see, I don't know what 
to do with you here if you don't eat enough to enable you to walk 
home. And I've been out for these three hours trapesing about the 
grounds till I'm as tired as can be, and missed my lunch and all." 
Then, as if a new idea had struck her, she said, — " You lie back in 
that seat for a few minutes, and tiy to eat the bunch of grapes, and 
I'll wait for you, and just be eating a mouthful meanwhile. You are 
sure you don't want this chicken ? " 

Molly did as she was bid, and leant back, picking languidly at 
the grapes, and watching the good appetite with which the lady ate 
up the chicken and jelly, and drank the glass of wine. She was so 
pretty and so gi'aceiul in her deep mourning, that even her hurry in 
eating, as if she was afraid of some one coming to surprise her in the 
act, did not keep her little observer from admiring her in all she did. 

" And now, darling, are you ready to go ? " said she, when she 
had eaten up evcijthing on the tray. " Oh, come ; you have nearly 
finished your grapes ; that's a good girl. Now, if you will come 
with me to the side entrance, I will take you up to my own room, 
and you shall lie down on the bed for an hour or two ; and if you 
have a good nap your headache will be quite gone." 

So they set off, Clare carrying the empty tray, rather to Molly's 
shame ; but the child had enough work to drag herself along, and 
was afraid of offering to do anything more. The *' side entrance " 
was a flight of steps leading up from a private flower-garden into a 
private matted hall, or ante-room, out of which many doors opened, 
and in which were deposited the light garden-tools and the bows and 
arrows of the young ladies of the house. Lady Cuxhaven must have 
seen their approach, for she met them in this hall as soon as they 
came in. 

" How is she now ?" she asked ; then glancing at the plates and 
glasses, she added, " Come, I think there can't be much amiss ! 
You're a good old Clare, but you should have let one of the men 
fetch that tray in ; life in such weather as this is trouble enough of 
itself." 

Molly could not help wishing that her pretty companion would 
have told Lady Cuxhaven that she herself had helped to finish up the 
ample luncheon ; but no such idea seemed to come into her mind. 
She only said, — " Poor dear ! she is not quite the thing yet ; has got 
a headache, she says. I am going to put her down on my bed, to 
see if she can get a little sleep." 



A NOVICE AMONGST THE GREAT FOLK. 15 

Molly saw Lady Cuxhaven say something in a lialf-laufjliiiig 
mauucr to " Clari'," as sbo passod her ; and the child could not keep 
from tormenting herself by fancying that tho words spoken sounded 
wonderfully like " Over-eaten herself, I suspect." However, she 
felt too poorly to worr}- herself long ; tho littlo whito bed in tho cool 
and pretty room had too many attractions for her aching head. The 
muslin curtains flapped softly from time to time in the scented air 
that came through tho open windows. Clare covered her up with a 
light shawl, and darkened the room. As she was going away Molly 
roused herself to say, " Please, ma'am, don't let them go away 
without me. Please ask somebody to waken mc if I go to sleep. I 
am to go back with Miss Brownuigs." 

" Don't trouble yourself about it, dear ; I'll tako care," said 
Clare, turning round at tho door, and kissing her hand to little 
anxious Molly. And then she went away, and thought no more about 
it. Tho carriages carao round at half-past four, hunied a little by 
Lady Cumnor, who had suddenly become tired of the business of 
entertaining, and annoyed at the repetition of indisciiminating admi- 
ration. 

" "Why cot have both carnages out, mamma, and get rid of them 
all at once ? " said Lady Cuxhaven. " This going by instalments is 
the most tiresome thing that could be imagined." So at last there 
had been a great huri-y and an unmethodical way of packing off ever}- 
one at once. Miss Bro^vning had gone in the chariot (or "chawyot," 
as Lady Cumnor called it ; — it rhymed to her daughter. Lady 
Hawyot — or Harriet, as the name was spelt in the Pecnirfc), and 
Miss Phoebe had been speeded along with several other guests, away 
in a great roomy family conveyance, of tho kind which wo should now 
call an " omnibus." Each thought that Molly Gibson was with the 
other, and the tnith was, that she lay fast asleep on Mrs. Kirk- 
patrick's bed — Mrs. Kirkpatrick ne'e Clare. 

The housemaids came in to arrange the room. Their talkin"^ 
aroused Molly, who sat up on tho bed, and tried to push back the 
hair fi'om her hot forehead, and to remember where she was. She 
dropped down on her feet by the side of the bed, to the astonish- 
ment of the women, and said, — "Please, how soon are we going 
away '? " 

" Bless us and save us ! who'd ha' thought of any one being in 
tho bed ? Are you one of the HoUingford ladies, my dear? They 
are all gone this hour or more ! " 



16 WrV'ES AND DAFGHTEES. 

" Oh, clear, what shall I do ? That lady they caU Clare promised 
to waken me in time. Papa will so wonder where I am, and I don't 
know what Betty will say." 

The child hegan to cry, and the housemaids looked at each other 
in some dismay and much sympathy. Just then, they heard Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick's step along the passages, approaching. She was singing 
some little Italian air in a low musical voice, coming to her bedroom 
to dress for dinner. One housemaid said to the other, with a 
knowing look, " Best leave it to her ; " and they passed on to their 
work in the other rooms. 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick opened the door, and stood aghast at the sight 
of Molly. 

" Why, I quite forgot you ! " she said at length, " Nay, don't 
cry ; you'll make yourself not fit to he seen. Of course I must take 
the consequences of your over-sleeping yourself, and if I can't manage 
to get you hack to HoUingford to-night, you shall sleep with me, and 
we'll do our best to send you home to-morrow morning." 

"But papa!" sobbed out Molly. "He always wants me to 
make tea for him ; and I have no night-things." 

" Well, don't go and make a piece of work about what can't be 
helped now. I'll lend you night-things, and your papa must do 
without your making tea for him to-night. And another time don't 
over-sleep j^ourself in a strange house ; you may not always find 
yourself among such hospitable people as they are here. Why now, 
if you don't cry and make a figure of yourself, I'll ask if you maj"^ 
come in to dessert with Master Smythe and the little ladies. You 
shall go into the nursery, and have some tea with them ; and then 
you must come back here and brush your hair and make yourself 
tidy. I think it is a very fine thing for you to be stopping in such a 
grand house as this ; many a little girl would like nothing better." 

During this speech she was arranging her toilette for dinner — 
taking ofi" her black morning gown ; putting on her dressing-gown ; 
shaking her long soft auburn hair over her shoulders, and glancing 
about the room in search of various articles of her dress, — a running 
flow of easy talk came babbling out all the time. 

" I have a little girl of my own, dear ! I don't know what she 
would not give to be staying here at Lord Cumnor's with me ; but, 
instead of that, she has to spend her holidays at school ; and yet you 
are looking as miserable as can be at the thought of stopping for just 
one night. I really have been as busy as can be with those tiresome 



A NOVICE AMONGST THE CHEAT FOLK. 17 

— tlioso good Inillcrt, I mean, from HoUingforJ — and ono can't think 
of everything at a time." 

Molly — only child us she was — hud stopped her tears at the 
montion of that little girl of Mrs. Kirkpatrick's, and now she ven- 
tured to say, — 

" Arc you nianued, lua'am ; I thought she called you Clare ? " 

In high good-humour ^Irs. Kirkpatrick made reply : — " I don't 
look as if I was married, do 1? Kvi-ry one is surprised. And yet 
I have been a widow for seven months now : and not a grey hair on 
my head, though Lady Cuxhavcn, who is younger than I, has ever 
so many. " 

" Why do they call you ' Clare ? ' " continued Molly, finding her 
80 affable and communicative. 

" Because I lived with them when I was Miss Clare. It is a 
pretty name, isn't it '? I married a Mr. Kirkpatrick ; he was only 
a curate, poor fellow ; but he was of a ver}' good family, and if three 
of his relations had died without children I should have been a 
baronet's wife. But Providence did not see fit to permit it ; and we 
must always resign ourselves to what is decreed. Two of his cousins 
married, and had large families; and poor dear Kirkpatrick died, 
leaving me a widow." 

" You have a little girl '?" asked Molly. 

" Yes : darling Cynthia ! I wish you could see her ; she is my 
only comfort now. If I have time I will show you her picture when 
we come up to bed ; but I must go now. It does not do to keep 
Lady Cumuor waiting a moment, and she asked mc to be down early, 
to help with some of the people in the house. Now I shall ring this 
bell, and when the housemaid comes, ask her to take you into the 
nursery, and to tell Lady Cuxhaven's nurse who you are. And then 
you'll have tea with the little ladies, and come in with them to 
dessert. There ! I'm sorry you've overslept yourself, and are left 
hero ; but give mc a kiss, and don't cr}* — you really arc rather a 
pretty child, though you've not got Cynthia's colouring ! Oh, 
Nanny, would you be so very kind as to take this young lady — 
(what's your name, my dear? (ribson ?V — Miss Gibson, to Mrs. 
Dyson, in the nursery, and ask her to allow her to drink tea with the 
young ladies there ; and to send her in with them to dessert. Ill 
explain it all to my lady." 

Nanny's face brightened out of its gloom when she heard the 
name Gibson ; and, having ascertained from ilolly that she was 

Vol. I. 2 



18 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

"tlic doctor's" child, she showed more willingness to comply with 
Mrs. Kirkpatrick's request than was usual with her. 

Molly was an ohligiug girl, and fond of children ; so, as long as 
she was in the nursery, she got on pretty well, being obedient to the 
wishes of the supreme power, and eyen very useful to Mrs. Dyson, 
by playing at tricks, and thus keeping a little one quiet while its 
brothers aoid sisters were being arrayed in gay attire, — lace and 
muslin, and velvet, and brilliant broad ribbons. 

" Now, miss," said Mrs. Dyson, when her own especial charge 
were all ready, ' ' what can I do for you ? You have not got another 
frock here, have you ? " No, indeed, she had not ; nor if she had 
had one, could it have been of a smarter nature than her present 
thick white dimity. So she could only wash her face and hands, and 
submit to the nurse's brushing and perfuming her hair. She thought 
she would rather have stayed in the park all night long, and slept 
under the beautiful quiet cedar, than have to undergo the unknown 
ordeal of " going down to dessert," which was evidently regarded 
both by children and nurses as the event of the day. At length there 
was a summons from a footman, and Mrs. Dyson, in a rustling silk 
gown, marshalled her convoy, and set sail for the dining-room door. 

There was a large party of gentlemen and ladies sitting round the 
decked table, in the brilliantly lighted room. Each dainty little 
child ran up to its mother, or aunt, or particular friend ; but Molly 
had no one to go to. 

" Who is that tall girl in the thick white frock ? Not one of the 
children of the house, I think ? " 

The lady addressed put up her glass, gazed at Molly, and dropped 
it in an instant. " A French girl, I should imagine. I know Lady 
Cuxhaven was inquiring for one to bring up with her little girls, that 
they might get a good accent early. Poor little woman, she looks 
wild and strange ! " And the speaker, who sate next to Lord Cum- 
nor, made a little sign to Molly to come to her ; Molly crept up to 
her as to the first shelter ; but when the lady began talking to her 
in French, she blushed violently, and said in a very low voice, — 

" I don't understand French. I'm only Molly Gibson, ma'am." 

" Molly Gibson ! " said the lady, out loud ; as if that was not 
much of an explanation. 

Lord Cumnor caught the words and the tone. 

" Oh, ho ! " said he. "Arc you the little girl who has been 
sleeping in my bed ?" 



A NOVICE A.MOX(;ST TUK OUKAT FOLK. 



td 



lie imitated tlio deep voice of the fabulous bear, who asks tliis 
question of the little child iu the story ; but Molly had never read 
tho ** Three Bears," and fancied that his anger was real ; she 
trembled a little, and drew nearer to the kind lady who had beckoned 
her as to a n-fu^'e. Lord C'umnor was very fynd of f,'ettiug hold of 
what he fancied was a joke, and working his idea threadbare ; so all 
tlie time the ladies were in the room ho kept on his running fire at 
Molly, alluding to the Sleeping Beauty, the Seven Sleepers, and any 
other fiiiuous sleeper that came into his head. He had no idea of 
the misery his jokes were to the sensitive girl, who ah-eady thought 
herself a miserable sinner, for having slept on, when she ought to 
have been awake. If Molly had been iu tho habit of putting two 
and two together, she might have found an excuse for herself, by re- 
membering that Mrs. Kirkpatrick had promised faithfully to awaken 
lior in time ; but all the girl thought of was, how httlc they wanted 
her in this grand house ; how she must seem like a careless iutrader 
who had no business there. Once or twice she wondered where her 
father was. and whether he was missing her ; but the thought of the 
familiar happiness of home brought such a choking iu her thi-oat, 
that she felt she must not give way to it, for fear of bursting out 
crving ; and she had instinct enough to feel that, as she was left at 
the Towers, the less trouble she gave, the more she kept herself out 
of observation, tho better. 

She followed tho ladies out of tho dining-room, almost hoping 
that no one would see her. But that was impossible, and she im- 
niodiately became the subject of conversation between the awful Lady 
Cumuor and her kind neighbour at dinner. 

" Do you know, I thought this young lady was French when I 
first saw her '? she has got the black hair and eyelashes, and grey 
eyes, and colourless complexion which one meets with iu some parts 
of France, and I know Lady Cuxharen was trying to find a well- 
educated girl who would be a pleasant companion to her children." 

" No ! " said Lady Cumuor, looking very stern, as Molly thought. 
" She is the daughter of our medical man at HoUingford ; she came 
with the school visitors this morning, and she was overcome by the 
heat and fell asleep in Clare's room, and somehow managed to 
over-sleep herself, and did not waken up till all the carriages were 
gone. We will send her home to-morrow morning, but for to-night 
she must stay here, and Clare is kind enough to say she may sleep 
with her." 



20 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

There was an implied blame running through this speech, that 
Molly felt like needle-points all over her. Lady Cuxhaven came up 
at this moment. Her tone was as deep, her manner of speaking as 
abrupt and authoritative, as her mother's, but Molly felt the kinder 
nature underneath. 

" How are you now, my dear ? You look better than you did 
under the cedar-tree. So you're to stop here to-night ? Clare, 
don't you think we could find some of those books of engravings that 
would interest Miss Gibson.'' 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick came gliding up to the place where Molly stood ; 
and began petting her with pretty words and actions, while Lady 
Cuxhaven turned over heavy volumes in search of one that might 
interest the girl. 

" Poor darling ! I saw you come into the dining-room, looking 
so shy ; and I wanted you to come near me, but I could not make a 
sign to you, because Lord Cuxhaven was speaking to me at the time, 
telling me about his travels. Ah, here is a nice book — Loihjcs 
Portraits; now I'll sit by you and tell you who they all are, and all 
about them. Don't trouble yourself any more, dear Lady Cuxhaven ; 
I'll take charge of her ; pray leave her to me ! " 

Molly grew hotter and hotter as these last words met her ear. 
If they would only leave her alone, and not labour at being kind to 
her; would "not trouble themselves" about her! These words 
of Mrs. Kirkpatrick" s seemed to quench the gratitude she was feeling 
to Lady Cuxhaven for looking for something to amuse her. But, of 
course, it was a trouble, and she ought never to have been there. 

By-and-by, Mrs. Kirkpatrick was called away to accompany Lady 
Agnes' song ; and then Molly really had a few minutes' enjoyment. 
She could look round the room, unobserved, and, sure, never was 
any place out of a king's house so grand and magnificent. Large 
mirrors, velvet curtains, pictures in their gilded frames, a multitude 
of dazzling lights decorated the vast saloon, and the floor was 
studded with groups of ladies and gentlemen, all dressed in gorgeous 
attire. Suddenly Molly bethought her of the children whom she 
had accompanied into the dining-room, and to whose ranks she had 
appeared to belong, — where were they ? Gone to bed an hour 
before, at some quiet signal from their mother. Molly wondered if 
she might go, too — if she could ever find her way back to the haven 
of Mrs. Kirkpatrick's bedroom. But she was at some distance from 
the door ; a long way from Mrs. Kirkpatrick, to whom she felt her- 



A NOYirt: AMON(}ST THK OUEAT FOLK. 21 

self to belong more than to any one else. Far, too, from Lady Cux- 
liavon, and tlio tcrrililo Laily Cumnor, and lur jocoso and f,'ood- 
naturod lord. So Molly sato on, turning over pictures which she 
did not SCO ; lier heart growing henvior and heavier in the desolation 
of all this f^'randcur. Presently a footman entered thi; room, and 
after a moment's looking about him, he went uj) to Mrs. Kirkpatrick, 
where she sato at the piano, the centre of the musical portion of the 
company, ready to accompany any singer, and smiling pleasantly as 
she willingly acceded to all requests. .She came now towards Molly, 
in her corner, and said to her, — 

" Do you know, darling, your papa has come for you, and brought 
your pony for you to rido home ; so I shall lose my little bedfellow, 
for I suppose you must go." 

Go ! was there a question of it in IMully's mind, as she stood up 
quiveriug, sparkling, almost crying out loud. She was brought to 
her senses, though, by Mrs. Kirkpatrick's next words. * 

" You must go and wish Lady Cumnor good-night, you know, 
my dear, and thank her ladyship for her kindness to you. She is 
there, near that statue, talking to Mr. Courtenay." 

Yes ! she was there — forty feet away — a hundred miles away ! 
All that blank space had to be crossed ; and then a speech to be 
made ! 

" Must I go ? " asked Molly, in the most pitiful and pleading 
voice possible. 

" Yes ; make haste about it ; there is nothing so fonuidable iu 
it, is there?" replied Mrs. Kirkpatrick, in a sharper voice than 
before, aware that they were wanting her at the piano, and anxious 
to get the business iu hand done as soon as possible. 

Molly stood still for a minute, then, looking up, she said, 
softly, — 

" Would you mind coming with mo. please ? " 

"No! not I!" said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, seeing that her com- 
pliance was likely to be the most spetdy way of gettiug through 
the affair ; so she took Molly's, hand, and, on the way, iu passing 
the group at the piano, she said, smiling, in her pretty genteel 
manner, — 

" Our little friend hero is shy and modest, and wants me to ac- 
company her to Ijady Cumnor to wish good-night ; her father has 
■come for her, and she is going away." 

Molly did not know how it was afterwards, but she pulled her 



22 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

hand out of Mrs. Kirkpatrick's on hearing these words, and going a 
step or two in advance came up to Lady Cumnor, grand in purple 
velvet, and dropping a curtsey, almost after the fashion of the school- 
children, she said, — 

" My lady, papa is come, and I am going away ; and, my lady, 
I wish you good-night, and thank you for your kindness. Your 
ladyship's kindness, I mean," she said, con-ecting herself as she 
remembered Miss Browning's particular instructions as to the eti- 
quette to be observed to earls and countesses, and their honourable 
progeny, as they were given that morning on the road to the 
Towers. 

She got out of the saloon somehow ; she believed afterwards, on 
thinking about it, that she had never bidden good-by to Lady Cux- 
haven, or Mrs. Kirkpatrick, or " all the rest of them," as she irre- 
verently styled them in her thoughts. 

*Mr. Gibson was in the housekeeper's room, when Molly ran in, 
rather to the stately Mrs. Brown's discomfiture. She threw her 
arms round her father's neck. " Oh, papa, papa, papa ! I am so 
glad you have come ; " and then she burst out crying, stroking his 
face almost hysterically as if to make sure he was there. 

"Why, what a noodle you are, Molly! Did you think I was 
going to give up my little girl to live at the Towers all the rest of 
her life ? You make as much work about my coming for you, as if 
you thought I had. Make haste, now, and get on your bonnet. 
Mrs. Brown, may I ask you for a shawl, or a plaid, or a wrap of 
some kind to pin about her for a petticoat ? " 

He did not mention that he had come home from a long round 
not half an hour before, a round from which he had returned dinner- 
less and hungry ; but, on finding that Molly had not come back from 
the Towers, he had ridden his tired horse round by Miss Brownings', 
and found them in self- reproachful, helpless dismay. He would not 
wait to listen to their tearful apologies ; he galloped home, had a 
fresh horse and Molly's pony saddled, and though Betty called after 
him with a riding-skirt for the child, when he was not ten yards 
from his ovm stable-door, he refused to turn back for it, but went 
off, as Dick the stableman said, " muttering to himself awful." 

Mrs. Brown had her bottle of wine out, and her plate of cake, 
before Molly came back from her long expedition to Mrs. Kirk- 
patrick's room, " pretty nigh on to a quarter of a mile off,'' ^s the 
housekeeper informed the impatient father, as he waited for his child 



A NOVIC!-: AMONGST TOE CUKAT lOI-K. 23 

to como (lowii ftrmyod iu her morning's finery with the gloss of new- 
ness worn olV. ^Ir. Gibson was a favourito in all the Towers' house- 
hold, as family doctors penerally aro ; brinj^iug hopes of relief at 
times of anxiety and distress ; and Mrs. Hrown, who was subject to 
fjout, especially delighted in potting him whenever ho would allow 
hor. She oven wont out into the stable-yard to pin Molly up in the 
nhawl. as she sate upon the ntugh-coated pony, and hazarded the 
somewhat safe conjecture, — 

" I daresay she'll bo happier at home, Mr. Gibson,"' as they 
rode away. 

Once out into the park Molly strack hor pony, and urged him oa 
as hard as he would go. Mr. Gibson called out at last : 

" Molly ! we're coming to the rabbit-holes ; it's not safe to go 
at such a pace. Stop." And as she drew rein ho rode up alongside 
of her. 

'• We're getting into the shadow of the trees, and it's not safe 
riding fast here." 

" Oh ! i)apa, I never was so glad in all my life. I felt like a 
lighted candle when they're putting the extinguisher on it." 

" Did you ? How d'ye know what the caudle feels ?" 

" Oh, I don't know, but I did." And again, after a pause, she 
said, — ** Oh, I am so glad to be here ! It is so pleasant riding hero 
in the open free, fresh air, crushing out such a good smell from the 
dewy grass. Papa ! are you there '? I can't see you." 

He rode close up alongside of her : ho was not sure but what she 
might be afraid of riiliug in the dark shadows, so he laid his hand 
upon hei-s. 

" Oh ! I am so glad to feel you," squeezing his hand hard. 
" Papa, I should like to get a chain like Ponto's, just as long as 
your longest round, and then I could fasten us two to each end of it, 
juid when I wanted you I could pull, and if you did not want to come, 
you could pull back again ; but I should know you knew I wanted 
you, and wo could never lose each other." 

'' I'm rather lost iu that plan of yours ; the details, as you state 
them, are a little puzzling ; but if I make them out rightly, I am to 
go about the couutr}', like the donkeys on the common, with a clog 
fastened to my hind leg." 

" I don't mind your calling mo a clog, if only we were fastened 
together." 

" But I do mind you calling mc a doukcy," he replied. 



24 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" I never did. At least I did not mean to. But it is such a 
comfort to know that I may be as rude as I like." 

" Is that what you've learnt from the grand company you've 
been keeping to-day ? I expected to find you so polite and cere- 
monious, that I read a few chapters of Sir Charles Grandisvn, in 
order to bring myself up to concert pitch." 

" Oh, I do hope I shall never be a lord or a lady." 

" "Well, to comfort j'ou, I'll tell you this : I'm sure you'll never 
be a lord ; and I tliink the chances are a thousand to one against 
your ever being the other, in the sense in which you mean." 

" I should lose myself every time I had to fetch my bonnet, or 
else get tired of long passages and great staircases long before I 
could go out walking." 

" But you'd have your lady's-maid, you know." 

" Do you know, papa, I tliink lady's-maids are worse than ladies. 
I should not mind being a housekeeper so much." 

" No ! the jam-cupboards and dessert would lie very conveniently 
to one's hand," replied her father, meditatively. " But Mrs. Brown 
tells me that the thought of the dinners often keeps her from sleeping ; 
there's that anxiety to be taken into consideration. Still, in eveiy 
condition of life, there are heavy cares and responsibilities." 

"Well! I suppose so," said Molly, gravely. "I know Betty 
says I wear her life out with the green stains I get in my frocks 
from sitting in the cheny-trce." 

" And Miss Browning said she had fretted herself into a headache 
with thinking how they had left you behind. I'm afraid you'll be 
as bad as a bill of fare to them to-night. How did it all happen, 
goosey?" 

" Oh, I went by myself to see the gardens; they are so beauti- 
ful ! and I lost myself, and sat down to rest under a gi'eat tree ; and 
Lady Cuxhaven and that Mrs. Kirkpatrick came ; and Mrs. Kirk- 
patrick brought me some lunch, and then put me to sleep on her 
bed, — and I thought she would waken me in time, and she did not ; 
and so they'd all gone away ; and when they planned for me to stop 
till to-morrow, I didn't like saying how very, very much I wanted to 
go home, — but I kept thinking how you would wonder where I was." 

" Then it was rather a dismal day of pleasure, goosey, eh ?" 

" Not in the morning. I shall never forget the morning in that 
garden. But I was never so unhappy in all my life, as I have been 
all this long afternoon." 



A NOVICK AMOK(;ST TIIK (HIKAT lOLK. 25 

Mr. (iibsou thought it his duty to ride round by tho Towers, aud 
pay n visit of iipology iind tlinnks to the fuinily, bi'fure they left for 
Lundon. He found tliein all on tlie wing, and no one was sulhciently 
at liberty to listen to his grateful civilities but Mra. Kirkpatrick, who, 
altli(>uj,'h she was to accompany Tiady Cuxhavcn, and pay a visit to 
her former pupil, made leisure enough to receive Mr. (iibson, on 
behalf of tho family ; and assured hira of her faithful remembranco 
of his great professional attention to her iu former days in the most 
winuiuii manner. 



( 2G_ ) 



CHAPTER III. 

MOLLY GIESOX'S CHILDHOOD. 

Sixteen years before this time, all lioUingford had been disturbed to 
its foundations by the intelligence that Mr. Hall, the skilful doctor, 
who had attended them all their days, was going to take a partner. It 
was no use reasoning to them on the subject ; so Mr. Browning the 
vicar, Mr. Sheepshanks (Lord Cumnor's agent), and Mr. Hall him- 
self, the masculine reasoners of the little society, left off the attempt, 
feeling that the Che sarli mm would prove more silencing to the 
murmurs than many arguments. Mr. Hall had told his faithful 
patients that, even with the strongest spectacles, his sight was not 
to be depended upon ; and they might have found out for them- 
selves that his hearing was very defective, although, on this point, 
he obstinately adhered to his own opinion, and v/as fi-equently heard 
to regret the carelessness of people's communication nowadays, "like 
writing on blotting-paper, all the words running into each other," he 
would say. And more than once Mr. Hall had had attacks of a, 
suspicious nature, — "rheumatism" he used to call them ; but he 
prescribed for himself as if they had been gout, which had prevented 
his immediate attention to imperative summonses. But, blind and 
deaf, and rheumatic as he might be, he V!as still Mr. Hall the doctor 
who could heal all theii- ailments — unless they died meanwhile — and 
he had no right to speak of growdng old, and taking a partner. 

He went very steadily to work all the same ; advertising in 
medical journals, reading testimonials, sifting character and qualifi- 
cations ; and just when the elderly maiden ladies of HoUiugford 
thought that they had convinced their contemporary that he was 
as young as ever, he startled them by bringing his nev/ partner, Mr. 
Gibson, to call upon them, and began " slyly," as these ladies said, to 
introduce him into practice. And "who was this Mr. Gibson '?" they 



^ MOIiLY GIBSON'S CHILDHOOD. 27 

ftskoil, and echo might nnswcr the qncstion, if she likcil, for no one 
else (lid. No <tno over in all his life know an}-thinR more of his antc- 
codouts tlmu the llollini^'ford pcoiilo niifiht liavo found out the first 
day thi'y saw him : that ho was tall, grave, rather handsome than 
otherwise ; thin onougli to he called " a very geutcel iigarc," in 
those days, heforo muscular Christianity had come into vogne ; 
speaking ^vith a slight Scotch accent ; and, as one good lady oh- 
scrved, " so very trite iu his conversation," hy which she meant 
sarcastic. As to liis hirth, parentage, and education, — the favourite 
conjecture of Hollingford society was, that he was the illegitimate 
son of a Scotch duke, hy a Frenchwoman ; and the grounds for this 
conjecture were these : — He spok» with a Scotch accent ; therefore, 
he nmst ho Scotch. He had a very genteel appearance, an elegant 
figure, and was apt — so his ill-wishers said — to give himself airs ; 
therefore, his father must have been some person of quality ; and, 
that granted, nothing was easier than to mn this supposition up all 
the notes of the scale of the peerage, — baronet, baron, viscount, 
carl, marquis, duke. Higher they dared not go, though one old 
lady, acquainted with English history, hazarded the remark, that 
" she believed that one or two of the Stuarts — hem — had not always 
been, — ahem — quite correct in their — conduct; and she fancied 
such — ahem — things ran in families." But, in popular opinion, Mr. 
Gibson's father always remained a duke ; nothing more. 

Then his mother must have been a Frenchwoman, because his 
hair was so black ; and he was so sallow ; and because he had been 
in Paris. All this might be true, or might not ; nobody ever knew, 
or found out anything more about him than what Mr. Hall told them, 
namely, that his professional qualifications were as high as hismoml 
character, and that both were far above the average, as Mr. Hall had 
taken pains to ascertain before introducing him to his patients. The 
popularity of this world is as transient as its glory, as 3Ir. Hall 
found out before the first year of his partnership was over. He had 
plenty of leisure left to him now to nurse his gout and cherish bis 
eyesight. The younger doctor had carried the day; nearly every one 
sent for Mr. Gibson. Even at the gi'cat houses — even at the Towers, 
that greatest of all, where Mr. Hall had introduced his new partner 
with fear and trembling, with untold anxiety as to his behaviour, and 
the impression ho might make on my lord the Earl, and my lady the 
Countess, Mr. Gibson was received at the end of a twelvemonth 
with as much welcome respect for bis professional skill as ^Ir. Hall 



28 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. * 

himself had ever hcen. Nay — and this was a little too much for 
even the kind old doctor's good temper — Mr. Gibson had even been 
invited once to dinner at the Towers, to dine with the great Sir 
Astley, the head of the profession ! To be sure, Mr. Hall had been 
asked as well ; but he was laid up just then with his gout (since he 
had had a partner the rheumatism had been allowed to develope 
itself), and he had not been able to go. Poor Mr. Hall never quite 
got over this mortification ; after it he allowed himself to become 
dim of sight and hard of hearing, and kept pretty closely to the house 
during the two winters that remained of his life. He sent for an 
orphan grand-niece to keep him company in his old age ; he, the 
woman-contemning old bachelor, became thankful for the cheerful 
presence of the pretty, bonny Mary Pearson, who was good and 
sensible, and nothing more. She formed a close friendship with the 
daughters of the vicar, Mr. Browning, and Mr. Gibson found time to 
become very intimate with all three. HoUingford speculated much 
on which young lady would become Mrs. Gibson, and was rather 
sorry when the talk about possibilities, and the gossip about proba- 
bilities, with regard to the handsome young surgeon's marriage, 
ended in the most natural manner in the world, by his marrying his 
predecessor's niece. The two Miss Brownings showed no signs of 
going into a consumption on the occasion, although their looks and 
manners were carefully watched. On the contrary, they were rather 
boisterously meriy at the wedding, and poor Mrs. Gibson it was that 
died of consumption, four or five years after her marriage — three 
years after the death of her great-uncle, and when her only child, 
Molly, was just three years old. 

Mr. Gibson did not speak much about the grief at the loss of his 
wife, which it was supposed that he felt. Indeed, he avoided all 
demonstrations of sympathy, and got up hastily and left the room 
when Miss Phcebe Browning first saw him after his loss, and burst 
into an uncontrollable flood of tears, which threatened to end in 
hysterics. Miss Browning afterwards said she never could forgive 
liim for his hard-heartedness on that occasion ; but a fortnight after- 
wards she came to very high words with old Mrs. Goodenough, for 
gasping out her doubts whether Mr. Gibson was a man of deep 
feeling ; judging by the narrowness of his crape hat-band, which 
ought to have covered his hat, whereas there was at least three 
inches of beaver to be seen. And, in spite of it all. Miss Browning 
and Miss Phoebe considered themselves as Mr. Gibson's most inti- 



MOLLY GIBSON'S CHILDHOOD. 29 

mate friends, in right of their regnnl for his (h':ul wife, ami would 
fain have taken a (luasi-inotherly interest in his little girl, had sho 
not been guarded hy a watehful dragon in the shapo of Betty, her 
nurse, who [was jialous of any interfc-renrc Itetwtcn her and her 
charge ; and especially resentful and disagreeable towards all those 
ladies who, by suitiihlo nge, rank, or propinquity, she thought capable 
of " casting sheep's eyes at master." 

Several years before the opening of tliis story, Mr. (iibson's 
position seemed settled for life, both socially and professionally. He 
was a widower, and likely to remain so ; his domestic affections 
Were centred on little Molly, but even to her, in their most private 
moments, ho did not give way to much expression of his feelings ; 
his most caressing appellation for her was " Goosey," and he took a 
pleasure in bewildering her infant mind with his badinage. Uo had 
rather a contempt for demonstrative people, arising from his medical 
insight into the consequences to health of uncontrolled feeling. He 
deceived himself into believing that still his reason was lord of all, 
because he had never fallen into the habit of expression on any 
other than purely intellectual subjects. Molly, however, had her 
own intuitions to guide her. Though her papa laughed at her, 
quizzed her. joked at her, in a way wliich the Miss Brownings called 
'•really cruel" to each other when they were quite alone, Molly 
took her little griefs and pleasures, and poured them into her papa's 
oars, sooner even than into Betty's, that kind-hearted termagant. 
The child grew to understand her latlicr well, and the two had the 
most delightful intercourse together — half banter, half seriousness, 
but altogether confidential friendship. Mr. Gibson kept three ser- 
vants ; Betty, a cook, and a girl who was supposed to be housemaid, 
but who was under both the elder two, and had a pretty life of it in 
consequence. Three servants would not have been requii'cd if it had 
not been Mr. Gibson's habit, as it had been Mr. Hall's before him, 
to take two " pupils," as they were called in the genteel language of 
Hollingford, " aiipreutices," as they were in fact — being bound by 
indentures, and paying a handsome premium to learn their business. 
They lived in the house, and occupied an uncomfortable, ambiguous, 
or, as Miss Browning called it with some truth, "amphibious" 
position. They had their meals with Mr. Gibson and Mollv, and 
were felt to be terribly in the way ; Jlr. Gibson not being a man 
who could make conversation, and hating the duty of talkinf^ uuder 
restraint. Yet something within him made him wince, as if his 



30 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

duties were not riglitly performed, when, as the cloth was drawn, the 
two awkward lads rose up with joyful alacrity, gave him a nod, which 
was to he interpreted as a how, knocked against each other in their 
endeavours to get out of the dining-room quickly ; and then might 
be heard dashing along a passage which led to the surgery, choking 
with half-suppressed laughter. Yet the annoyance he felt at this 
dull sense of imperfectly fulfilled duties only made his sarcasms on 
their inefficiency, or stupidity, or ill manners, more hitter than before. 
Beyond direct professional instruction, he did not know what to 
do with the succession of pairs of young men, whose mission seemed 
to be, to be plagued by their master consciously, and to plague him 
unconsciously. Once or twice Mr. Gibson had declined taking a fresh 
pupil, in the hopes of shaking himself free fi-om the incubus, but 
his reputation as a clever surgeon had spread so rapidly that his fees 
which he had thought prohibitory, were willingly paid, in order that 
the young man might make a start in life, with the prestige of having 
been a pupil of Gibson of HoUingford. But as Molly grew to be a 
little girl instead of a child, when she was about eight years old, her 
father perceived the awkwardness of her having her breakfasts and 
dinners so often alone with the pupils, without his uncertain pre- 
sence. To do away with this evil, more than for the actual instruc- 
tion she could give, he engaged a respectable woman, the daughter 
of a shopkeeper in the town, who had left a destitute family, to 
come every morning before breakfast, and to stay with Molly till he 
came home at night ; or, if he was detained, until the child's bed- 
time. 

" Now, Miss Eyre," said he, summing up his instructions the 
day before she entered upon her office, " remember this : you are to 
make good tea for the young men, and see that they have their meals 
comfortably, and — you are five-and-thiiiy, I think you said ? — tiy 
and make them talk, — rationally, I am afraid is beyond your or 
anybody's power ; but make them talk without stammering or 
giggling. Don't teach Molly too much : she must sew, and read, 
and write, and do her sums ; but I want to keep her a child, and if 
I find more learning desirable for her, I'll see about giving it to her 
myself. After all, I'm not sure that reading or writing is necessaiy. 
Many a good woman gets married with only a cross instead of her 
name ; it's rather a diluting of mother-wit, to my fancy ; but, how- 
ever, we must yield to the prejudices of society, Miss Eyre, and so 
you may teach the child to read." 



MOLLY OIDSON's CHILDHOOD. 81 

Miss Eyro listened iu sileuce, pcrploxetl but detcrniincd to bo 
ubcdieut to tho directions of the doctor, whoso kindness she and her 
fiimily had pood causo to know. She made stronj:; tea ; hhe helped 
the young men liberally in Mr. Gibson's absonoo, as well as in his 
presence, and she found tho way to unloosen their tongues, when- 
ever thtir master was away, by talkinj^ to them on trivial subjects in 
her pleasant homely way. She taught Molly to read and write, but 
tried honestly to keep her back in every other branch of education. 
It was only by fighting and straggling hard, that bit by bit Molly 
persuaded her father to let her have French and drawing lessons. 
Ho was always afraid of her becoming too much educated, though 
ho need not have been alarmed ; the masters who visited such small 
country towns as HoUiugford forty years ago, were no such great 
proficients in their arts. Once a week she joined a dancing class in 
the assembly-room at the principal inn in the town : tho " Cumnor 
Arms ; " and, being daunted by her father iu eveiy intellectual 
attempt, she read everv- book that came iu her way, almost with as 
much delight as if it had been forbidden. For his station iu life, 
Sir. Gibson had an unusually good library ; tho medical portion of 
it was inaccessible to Molly, being kept iu the surgery, but every 
other book she had either read, or tried to read. Her summer place 
of study was that seat in the cherry-tree, where she got the gi-een 
stains on her frock, that have already been mentioned as likely to 
wear Betty's life out. In spite of this " hidden worm i' th' bud," 
Betty was to all appearance strong, alert, and flourishing. She was 
the one crook in Miss Eyre's lot, who was otherwise so happy in 
having met with a suitable well-paid emplo}'ment just when she 
needed it most. But Betty, though agreeing in theory with her 
master when he told her of the necessity of having a goveniess for 
his little daughter, was vehemently opposed to any division of her 
authoi-ity and influence over the child who had been her charge, her 
plagne, and her delight ever since Mrs. Gibson's death. She took 
up her position as censor of all Miss Eyre's sa}'ings and doings from 
the verj- first, and did not for one moment condescend to conceal her 
disapprobation in her heart. She could not help respecting tho 
patience and painstaking of the good lady, — for a " lady " Miss 
Eyre was in tho best sense of the word, though in Ilollingford she 
only took rank as a shopkeeper's daughter. Yet Betty buzzed about 
her with tho teasing pertinacity of a gnat, always ready to find fault, 
if not to bite. Miss Eyre's only defence came from the quarter 



32 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

whence it might least have been expected — from her pupil ; on 
whose fancied behalf, as an oppressed little personage, Betty always 
based her attacks. But very early in the day Molly perceived their 
injustice, and soon afterwards she began to respect Miss Eyre for 
her silent endurance of what evidently gave her far more pain than 
Betty imagined. Mr. Gibson had been a friend in need to her 
family, so Miss Eyre restrained her complaints, sooner than annoy 
him. And she had her reward. Betty would offer Molly all sorts 
of small temptations to neglect Miss Ejtc's wishes ; Molly steadily 
resisted, and plodded away at her task of sewing or her difficult sum. 
]>etty made cumbrous jokes at Miss Eyre's expense. Molly looked 
up with the utmost gravity, as if requesting the explanation of an 
unintelligible speech ; and there is nothing so quenching to a wag 
as to be asked to translate his jest into plain matter-of-fact English, 
and to show wherein the point lies. Occasionally Betty lost her 
temper entirely, and spoke impertinently to Miss Eyre ; but when 
this had been done in Molly's defence, the girl flew out in such a 
violent passion of words in defence of her silent trembling governess, 
that even Betty herself was daunted, though she chose to take the 
child's anger as a good joke, and tried to persuade Miss Eyre herself 
to join in her amusement. 

"Bless the child! one would think I was a hungry pussy-cat, 
and she a hen-sparrow, with her wings all fluttering, and her little 
eyes aflame, and her beak ready to peck me just because I happened 
to look near her nest. Nay, child ! if thou lik'st to be stifled in a 
nastj' close room, learning things as is of no earthly good when they 
is learnt, instead o' riding on Job Donkin's hay-cart, it's thy look- 
out, not mine. She's a little vixen, isn't she '? " smiling at Miss 
Eyre, as she finished her speech. But the poor governess saw no 
humour in the aflair ; the comparison of Molly to a hen-sparrow was 
lost upon her. She was sensitive and conscientious, and knew, from 
home experience, the evils of an ungovernable temper. So she 
began to reprove Molly for giving way to her passion, and the child 
thought it hard to be blamed for what she considered her just anger 
against Betty. But, after all, these were the small grievances of a 
very happy childhood. 



( 3!J ) 



CHAPTER IV. 

MK. GIBSON'S NEIGIinOURS. 

Molly gi*ew up among these quiet people in calm monotony of life, 
without any greater event than that which has been recorded, — the 
being left behind at the Towers — until she was nearly seventeen. 
She had become a visitor at the school, but she had never gone 
again to the annual festival at tho great house ; it was easy to find 
some excuse for keeping away, and tho recollection of that day was 
not a pleasant one on the whole, though she often thought how much 
she should like to see the gardens again. 

Lady Agnes was married ; there was only Lady Hamet remain- 
ing at home; Lord Ilollingford, the eldest son, had lost his wife, 
and wa^ a good deal more at the Towers since he had become a 
widower. He was a tall ungainly man, considered to be as proud as 
his mother, the countess ; but, in foct, he was only shy, and slow at 
making commonplace speeches. He did not know what to say to 
people whose daily habits and interests were not the same as his ; 
he would have been very thankful for a handbook of small-talk, and 
would have leanit oft" his sentences with good-humoured diligence. 
He often envied the fluency of his garrulous father, who delighted in 
tiUking to cveiybody, and was perfectly unconscious of the inco- 
herence of his conversation. But, owing to his constitutional re- 
serve and shyness. Lord Hollingford was not a popular man 
although his kindness of heart was ver}' great, his simplicity of 
character extreme, and his scientific acquirements considerable 
enough to entitle him to much reputation in the European re- 
public of learned men. Li this respect Hollingford was proud of 
him. The inhabitants knew that the great, grave, clumsy heir to 
its fealty was highly esteemed for his wisdom ; and that he had 
made one or two discoveries, though in what direction they were no 
Vol. I. » 



34 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

quite sure. But it was safe to point him out to strangers visiting 
tlie little town, as " That's Lord Hollingford — the famous Lord 
HoUingford, you know ; you must have heard of him, he is so scien- 
tific." If the strangers knew his name, they also knew his claims to 
fame ; if they did not, ten to one but they would appear as if they 
did, and so conceal not only their own ignorance, hut that of their 
companions, as to the exact nature of the sources of his reputation. 

He was left a widower with two or thi-ee boys. They were at a 
public school ; so that their companionship could make the house in 
which he had passed his married life but little of a home to him, and 
he consequently spent much of his time at the Towers ; where his 
mother was proud of him, and his father very fond, but ever so little 
afraid of him. His friends were always welcomed by Lord and Lady 
Cumnor ; the former, indeed, was in the habit of welcoming every- 
body everywhere ; but it v>"as a proof of Lady Cumnor's real afiection 
for her distinguished sou, that she allowed him to ask what she 
called " all sorts of people " to the Towers. " All sorts of people " 
meant really those who were distinguished for science and learning, 
without regard to rank : and it must be confessed, without much 
regard to polished manners likewise. 

Mr. Hall, Mr. Gibson's predecessor, had always been received 
with friendly condescension by my lady, who had found him estab- 
lished as the family medical man, when first she came to the Towers 
on her marriage ; but she never thought of interfering with his 
custom of taking his meals, if he needed refreshment, in the house- 
keeper's room, not with the housekeeper, hieu cnioiila. The comfort- 
able, clever, stout, and red-faced doctor would very much have pre- 
ferred this, even if he had had the choice given him (which he never 
had) of taking his " snack," as he called it, with my lord and my lady, 
in the grand dining-room. Of course, if some great surgical gun 
(like Sir Astley) was brought down from London to bear on the 
family's health, it was due to him, as well as to the local medical 
attendant, to ask Mr. Hall to dinner, in a formal ceremonious 
manner, on which occasion Mr. Hall buried his chin in voluminous 
folds of white muslin, put on his knee-breeches, vdth bunches of 
ribbon at the sides, his silk stockings and buckled shoes, and other- 
wise made himself excessively uncomfortable in his attire, and went 
forth in state in a post-chaise from the " Cumnor Arms," consoling 
himself in the private corner of his heart for the discomfort he was 
enduring with the idea of how well it would sound the next day in 



Mil. oiuson's neigudouus. 83 

tho oars of tho squires whom ho was iu tho habit of attcudiuK'. 
«' Yt'stenlay at (liuuor tho carl said," or *' tho counlcs.s remarked," 
or '' I was surprised to hoar when I was diiiinj^ at tho Towers yes- 
terday." iJiit somehow things had chaugod Biiico Mr. Gibson had 
become "tho doctor " par cxcolleuco at llollingford. Miss Browu- 
ings tlioiight that it was because ho had such au clcgaat figure, ond 
"such a distinguished manner;" Mrs. Goodcnough, " because of 
his aristocratic connections " — " tho sou of a Scotch duke, my dear, 
never miml on which side of tho blanket " — but tho fcict was certain; 
althougli ho might frequently ask Mrs. IJrown to give him something 
to oat iu the housekeeper's room — ho had no time for all tho fu3.s 
and ceremony^ of luncheon with my lady — ho was always welcome to 
tho grandest circle of visitors in the house. lie might lunch with a 
duke any day that he chose ; given that a duke was forthcoming at 
the Towers. His accent was Scotch, not provincial. Ho had not 
an ounce of superfluous flesh on his bones ; and leanness goes a 
great way to gentility. His complexion was sallow, and his hair 
black ; in those days, the decade after the conclusion of tho great 
continental war, to bo sallow and black-a-vised was of itself a dis- 
tinction ; ho was not jovial (as my lord remarked with a sigh, but it 
was my lady who endorsed the invitations), sparing of his words, 
intelligent, and slightly sarcastic. Theroforo he was perfectly 
presentable. 

His Scotch blood (for that ho was of Scottish descent there could 
be no manner of doubt) gave him just the kind of thistly dignity 
which made every one feel that they must treat him with respect ; so 
on that head he was assured. Tho grandeur of being au invited 
guest to dinner at tho Towers from time to time, gave him but 
littlo pleasure for many years, but it was a form to bo gono 
through in the way of his profession, without any idea of social 
gratification. 

15ut when Lord IlulUugford returned to mako tho Towers his 
home, aflairs were altered. Mr. Gibson really heard and learut 
things that interested him seriously, and that gave fresh flavour to 
his reading. From time to tim.> ho met tho leaders of the scientific, 
world ; odd-looking, simple-hearted men, very much in earnest about 
their own particular subjects, and not having much to say on any 
other, Mr. Gibson found himself capable of appieciating such 
persons, and also perceived that they valued his appreciation, as it 
was honestly and intelligently given. Indeed, by-and-by, ho began 

8—2 



36 WIVES AKD DAUGHTERS. 

to send contributions of his own to the more scientific of the medical 
journals, and thus partly in receiving, partly in giving out information 
and accurate thought, a new zest was added to his life. There was 
not much intercourse between Lord Hollingford and himself; the one 
was too silent and shy, the other two busy, to seek each other's 
society with the perseverance required to do away with the social dis- 
tinction of rank that prevented their frequent meetings. But each was 
thoroughly pleased to come into contact with the other. Each could 
rely on the other's respect and sympathy with a security unknown to 
many who call themselves friends ; and this was a source of happiness 
to both ; to Mr. Gibson the most so, of course ; for his range of 
intelligent and cultivated society was the smaller. Indeed, there 
was no one equal to himself among the men with whom he asso- 
ciated, and this he had felt as a depressing influence, although he had 
never recognized the cause of his depression. There was Mr. Ashton, 
the vicar, who had succeeded Mr. Browning, a thoroughly good and 
kind-hearted man, but one without an original thought in him ; 
whose habitual courtesy and indolent mind led him to agree to every 
opinion, not palpably heterodox, and to utter platitudes in the most 
gentlemanly manner. Mr. Gibson had once or twice amused himself, 
by leading the vicar on in his agreeable admissions of arguments 
"as perfectly convincing," and of statements as "curious but un- 
doubted," till he had planted the poor clergyman in a bog of heretical 
bewilderment. But then Mr. Ashton's pain and sufi'ering at suddenly 
finding out into what a theological predicament he had been brought, 
his real self-reproach at his previous admissions, were so great that 
Mr. Gibson lost all sense of fun, and hastened back to the Thirty- 
nine Articles with all the good-will in life, as the only means of 
soothing the vicar's conscience. On any other subject, except that 
of orthodoxy, Mr. Gibson could lead him any lengths ; but then his 
ignorance on most of them prevented bland acquiescence from 
arriving at any results which could startle him. He had some 
private fortune, and was not married, and lived the life of an indolent 
and refined bachelor ; but though he himself was no very active 
visitor among his poorer parishioners, he was always willing to relieve 
their wants in the most liberal, and, considering his habits, occasion- 
ally in the most self-denying manner, whenever Mr. Gibson, or any 
one else, made them clearly known to him. " Use my purse as freely 
as if it was your own, Gibson," he was wont to say. " I'm such a 
bad one at going about and making talk to poor folk — I daresay I 



MR. GinSON'S NEIGIinOURS. 87 

don't do onougli in tlmt way— but I nxn most willing to give yoa 
anjihing for any one you inny conHider in want," 

•' Thank you ; I conic upon you pretty often, I believe, and make 
very little soruplo about it ; but if you'll allow mo to suggcHt, it is, 
that you should not try to make talk when you go into the cottages ; 
but just talk." 

" I dont SCO the dilTcrcuco," said the vicar, a little querulously ; 
" but I daresay there is a dilVorenco, and I have no doubt what you 
Bay is quite true. I should not make talk, but talk ; and as both arc 
equally ditlicult to me, you must let mo purchase the privilege of 
silence by this ton-pound note." 

" Thank you. It is not so satisfactoiy to me ; and, I should 
think, not to yourself. But probably the Joneses and Greens will 
prefer it." 

]\Ir. Ashton would look with plaintive inquiry into Mr. CJibson's 
face after some such speech, as if asking if a saixasm was intended. 
On the whole they went on in tho most amiable way ; only beyond 
the gregarious feeling common to most men, they had very little 
actual pleasure in each other's society. Perhaps the man of all 
others to whom Mr. Gibson took tho most kindly — at least, until 
Lord Holliugford came into the neighbourhood — was a certain Squire 
Hamley. lie and his ancestors had been called s(iuire as long back 
as local tradition extended. But there was many a greater laud- 
owner in the county, for Squire Hamley's estate was not more than 
eight hundred acres or so. I'>ut his family had been in possession of 
it long before the Earls of Cumnor had been heard of; before the 
Hely-Harrisons bad bought Coldstone Park ; no ono in Hollingford 
knew the time when the Hamloys had not lived at Hamley. '• Ever 
since the Heptarchy," said the vicar. " Nay," said Miss Browning, 
" I have heard that there were Hamley s of Hamley before the 
Romans." The vicar was preparing a polite assent, when Mrs. 
Goodeuough came in with a still more startling assertion. " I have 
always heerd," said she, with all the slow authority of an oldest 
inhabitant, " that there was Hamleys of Hamley aforo the time of the 
pagans." Mr. Ashton could only bow, and say, " Possibly, very 
possibly, madam." But he said it in so courteous a manner that 
Mrs. Goodeuough looked round in a gratilied Avay, as much as to say, 
" The Church confinns my words ; who now will dare dispute them ? " 
At any rate, the Hamleys were a very old family, if not aborigines. 
They had not increased their estate for centuries; they had held 



38 WIVES AND DAUGIlTEliS. 

their own, if even witli an cflbi-t, and liacl not sold a rood of it for tlio 
last hundred years or so. But they were not an adventurous race, 
They never traded, or speculated, or tried agricultural improvements 
of any kind. They had no capital in any bank ; nor what perhaps* 
would have been more in character, hoards of gold in any stocking. 
Their mode of life was simple, and more like that of yeomen than 
squires. Indeed Squire Hamley, by continuing the primitive manners 
and customs of his forefathers the squires of the eighteenth centuiy, 
did live more as a yeoman, when such a class existed, than as a squire 
of this generation. There was a dignity in this quiet conservatism 
tliat gained him an immense amount of respect both from high and 
low ; and ho might have visited at every house in the county had he 
so chosen. But ho was very indifferent to the charms of society ; and 
perhaps this was owing to the fact that the squire, Roger Hamley, 
who at present lived and reigned at Hamley, had not received so 
good an education as ho ought to have done. His father, Squire 
Stephen, had been plucked at Oxford, and, with stubborn pride, ho 
had refused to go up again. Nay more ! he had sworn a great oath, 
as men did in those days, that none of his children to come should 
ever know either university by becoming a member of it. He had 
only one child, the present squire, and he was brought up according 
to his father's word ; he was sent to a petty provincial school, where 
he saw much that he liated, and then turned loose upon the estate as 
its heir. Such a bringing up did not do him all the harm that might 
have been anticipated. He was imperfectly educated, and ignorant 
on many points ; but he was aware of his deficiency, and regretted it 
in theory. He was awkward and ungainly in society, and so kept out 
of it as much as possible ; and he was obstinate, violent-tempered, 
and dictatorial in his own immediate circle. On the other side, ho 
was generous, and true as- steel ; the very soul of honour, in fact. 
He had so much natural shrewdness, that his conversation was 
always worth listening to, although he was apt to start by assuming 
entirely false premises, which he considered as incontrovertible as 
if they had been mathematically proved ; but, given the correctness 
of his premises, nobody could bring more natural wit and sense to 
bear upon the arguments based upon them. He had married a 
delicate fine London lady ; it was one of those perplexing maniages 
of which one cannot understand the reasons. Yet they were vei-y 
happy, though possibly Mrs. Hamley would not have sunk into the 
condition of a clu'onic invalid, if her husband had cared a little more 



Mu. qioson'8 nek: 11 nouns. 89 

for her Yftiious tastes, or allowed her the companionshii) of llutsc who 
(lid. Aftc-r hid nmrriii'^o ho wiis wont to say ho had K'^t I'Jl ^.hat was 
worth haviu({ out of tlio crowd of liouses they called Loudon. It wan 
a coiiii>liiiu'ut to his wifo which ho repeated imtil the year of her 
death ; it charmed her at first, it pleased her up to the last time of 
her heariii};j it ; but, for all that, hIio used sometimes to wish that ho 
would recoj^nizo the fact that there nii^'ht still ho something worth 
heariug aud seeing in the great city. I3ut he never went there again, 
aud though he did not prohibit her going, yet ho showed so little 
s^nnpathy with her when sho came back full of what she had done on 
her visit that sho ceased caring to go. Not but what he was kind 
and willing in giving his consent, and in furnishing her amply with 
money. *' There, there, my little woman, take that ! Dress your- 
self up as line as any on 'em, and buy what you like, for tho credit 
of Haniley of llamlcy ; and go to the park aud the play, and show 
off with the best on 'em. I shall be glad to seo thcc back again, I 
know ; but have thy fling while thou art about it." Then when sho 
came back it was, " Well, well, it has pleased thee, I suppose, so 
that's all right. But tho very talking about it tires me, I know, and 
I can't think how you have stood it all. Come out and see how pretty 
tho flowers are looking in tho south garden. I've made them sow all 
tho seeds you like ; aud I went over to Hollingford nursery to buy the 
cuttings of the plants you admii'cd last year. A breath of fresh air 
will clear my brain after listcuing to all this talk about tho whirl of 
London, which is like to have turned mo giddy." 

Mrs. Hamley was a great reader, and had considerable literary 
taste. Sho was gentle aud sentimental ; tender and good. Sho gave 
up her visits to London ; she gave up her sociable pleasure in tho 
company of her fellows in education aud position. Her husband, 
owing to tho deficiencies of his early years, disliked associating with 
those to whom he ought to have been an equal ; ho was too proud to 
mingle with his inferiors. Ho loved his wifo all the more dearly for 
her sacrifices for him ; but, deprived of all her strong interests, she 
sank into ill-health ; nothiug definite ; only sho never was well. 
Perhaps if she had had a daughter it would have been better for her : 
but her two children wore boys, and their father, anxious to give 
them the advantages of which ho himself had suflcred tho depriva- 
tion, scut the lads very early to a preparatory school. They were to 
go on to Paigby and Cambridge ; tho idea of Oxford was hereditarily 
distasteful in the Ilamley family. Osborne, the eldest — so called 



40 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

after his motlier's luaideu name — was full of taste, and liad some 
taleut. His appearance had all the grace and refinement of his 
mother's. He was sweet-tempei-ed and aifectionate, almost as demon- 
strative as a girl. He did well at school, carrying awaj' many prizes ; 
and was, in a word, the pride and delight of both father and mother ; 
the confidential friend of the latter, in default of any other. Roger 
was two years younger than Osborne ; clumsy and heavily built, like 
his father; his face was square, and the expression grave, and rather 
immobile. He was good, but dull, his schoolmasters said. He won 
no prizes, but brought home a favourable report of his conduct. 
When he caressed his mother, she used laughingly to allude to the 
fable of the lap-dog and the donkey ; so thereafter he left ofi" all 
personal demonstration of atfection. It was a great question as to 
whether he was to follow his brother to college after he left Rugby. 
Mrs. Hamley thought it would be rather a throwing away of money, 
as he was so little likely to distinguish himself in intellectual 
pursuits ; anything practical — such as a civil engineer — would be 
more the kind of life for him. She thought that it would be too 
mortifying for him to go to the same college and university as his 
brother, who was sure to distinguish himself — and, to be repeatedly 
plucked, to come away wooden-spoon at last. But his father per- 
severed doggedly, as was his wont, in his intention of giving both his 
sons the same education ; they should both have the advantages of 
which he had been deprived. If Roger did not do well at Cambridge 
it would be his own f\iult. If his father did not send him thither, 
some day or other he might be regretting the omission, as Squire 
Stephen had done himself for many a year. So Roger followed his 
brother Osborne to Trinity, and Mrs. Hamley was again left alone, 
after the year of indecision as to Roger's destination, which had been 
brought on by her urgency. She had not been able for many years 
to walk beyond her garden ; the greater part of her life was spent on 
a sofa, wheeled to the window in summer, to the fireside in winter. 
The room which she inhabited was large and pleasant ; four tall 
windows looked out upon a lawn dotted over with flower-beds, and 
melting away into a small wood, in the centre of which there was a 
pond, filled with water-lilies. About this unseen pond in the deep 
shade Mrs. Hamley had written many a pretty four- versed poem 
since she lay on her sofa, alternately reading and composing verse. 
She had a small table by her side on which there were the newest 
works of poetry and fiction ; a pencil and blotting-book, with loose 



Mli. (ilBSON'S NEIGHBOURS. 41 

Bhocts of blank paper ; ii vaso of flowers always of her husband's 
guthorin}:; ; winter nml smninor, she had a sweet fresh nosegay every 
day. Her iu:iid brouf^'ht her a draught of nudiciuc every three 
hours, with a glass of clear water and a biscuit ; her husband camo 
to her as often as his lovo for tho open air and his labours out-of- 
floors permitted ; but tho event of her day, wlicu her boys were 
absent, was Mr. Gibson's fre(iuent professional visits. 

Ho knew there was real secret harm going on all this time that 
people spoke of her as a merely fanciful invalid ; and that one or two 
accused him of humouring her fancies. But ho only smiled at such 
accusations. He felt that his visits were a real pleasure and light- 
cuing of her gi'owing and indescribable discomfort ; ho knew that 
Squire Hamley would have been only too glad if ho had come every 
day ; and ho was conscious that by careful watching of her symptoms 
he might mitigate her bodily pain. Besides all these reasons, ha 
took great pleasure in the squire's society. Mr. Gibson enjoyed the 
other's unreasonableness ; his quaintuess ; his strong conservatism 
in religion, politics, and morals. Mrs. Hamley tried sometimes to 
apologize for, or to soften away, opinions which she fancied wero 
otVensive to the doctor, or contradictions which she thought too 
abrupt ; but at such times her husband would lay his great hand 
almost caressingly on Mr. Gibson's shoulder, and soothe his wife's 
anxiety, by saying, " Let us alone, little woman. AVe understand 
each other, don't we, doctor ? Why, bless your life, he gives mo 
better than he gets many a time ; only, you see, ho sugars it over, 
and says a sharp thing, and pretends it's all civility and humility ; 
but I can tell when he's giving me a pill." 

One of Mrs. Hamley's often-expressed wishes had been, that 
jMolly might come and pay her a visit. Mr. Gibson always refused 
this re([uest of hers, though he could hardly have given his reasons 
for these refusals. He did not want to lose the companionship of his 
child, in fact ; but he put it to himself in quite a dill'erent way. 
He thought her lessons and her regular course of employment would 
be interrupted. The life in Mrs. Hamley's heated and scented room 
would not bo good for the girl ; Osborne and Roger Hamley would 
bo at home, and he did not wish Molly to bo thrown too exclusively 
upon them for young society ; or they would not be at home, and it 
would be rather dull and depressing for his girl to be all the day long 
with a nervous invalid. 

But at length tho day came when Mr. Gibson rode over, and 



42 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

volunteeretl a viaifc from Molly ; an offer which Mrs. Hamley received 
wjth the " open arms of her heart," as she expressed it ; and of 
which the duration was unspecified. And the cause for this change 
in Mr. Gihson's wishes v/as as follows : — It has heen mentioned that 
he took pupils, rather against his inclination, it is true ; but there 
they were, a Mr. Wynne and Mr. Coxe, " the young gentlemen," as 
they were called in the household ; " Mr. Gibson's young gentlemen," 
as they were termed in the town. Mr. Wj-nne was the elder, the 
more experienced one, who could occasionally take his master's place, 
and who gained experience by visiting the poor, and the " chronic 
cases." 3Ir. Gibson used to talk over his practice with Mr. Wynne, 
and try and elicit his opinions in the vain hope that, some day or 
another, Mr. Wynne might start an original thought. The young 
man was cautious and slow ; he would never do any harm by his 
rashness, but at the same time he would always be a little behind 
his day. Still Mr. Gibson remembered that he had had far worse 
"young gentlemen" to deal with; and was content with, if not 
thankful for, such an elder pupil as Mr. Wynne. Mr. Coxe was a 
boy of nineteen or so, with brilliant red hair, and a tolerably red 
face, of both of which he was very conscious and much ashamed. 
He was the son of an Indian officer, an old acquaintance of Mr. Gib- 
son's. Major Coxe was at some unpronounceable station in the 
Punjaub, at the present time ; but the year before he had been in 
England, and had repeatedly expressed his great satisfaction at 
having placed his only child as a pupil to his old friend, and had in 
fact almost charged Mr. Gibson with the guardianship as well as the 
instruction of his boy, giving him many injunctions which he thought 
were special in this case ; but which Mr. Gibson with a touch of 
annoyance assured the major were always attended to in every case, 
with every pupil. But when the poor major ventured to beg that his 
boy might be considered as one of the family, and that he might 
spend his evenings in the drawing-room instead of the surgery, 
Mr. Gibson turned upon him with a direct refusal. 

" He must live like the others. I can't have the pestle and mortar 
carried into the drawing-room, and the place smelling of aloes." 

" Must my boy make pills himself, then ? " asked the major, 
ruefully. 

"To be sure. The youngest apprentice always does. It's not 
hard work. He'll have the comfort of thinking he won't have to 
swallow them himself. And he'll have the run of the pomfi-et cakes, 



MU. GIBSON'S NKIGIinOUIia. 18 

nnd tlio conserve of hips, and on Sundays lio Klmll havo a taste of 
tamarinds to reward liini for liis weekly labour at pill-making." 

!\rajor Coxo was not quite suro whether ^Ir. Gibson was not 
laughing nt him in his skovo ; but things woro so far arranged, and 
tho real advantages wcro so great, that ho thought it was best to take 
no notice, but even to submit to tho indignity of pill-making. He 
was consoled for all these rubs by Mr. Gibson's manner at last uhen 
the supremo moment of final parting an*ivcd. The doctor did not 
say much ; but there was something of real sympathy in his manner 
that spoke straight to the father's heart, and an implied "you have 
trusted me with your boy, and I have accepted the trust in full," in 
each of the few last words. 

Mr. Gibson knew his business and human nature too well to dis- 
tinguish young Coxe by any overt marks of favouritism ; but he could 
not help showing tho lad occasionally that he regarded him with 
especial interest as tho son of a friend. Besides this claim upon 
his regard, there was something about tho young man himself that 
pleased Mr. Gibson. He was rash and impulsive, apt to speak, 
hitting the nail on the head sometimes with unconscious cleverness, 
at other times making gross and startling blunders. Mr. Gibson 
used to toll him that his motto would always be " kill or cure," and 
to this Mr. Coxo onco made answer that he thought it was the best 
motto a doctor could havo ; for if he could not euro the patient, it 
was surely best to get him out of his misery quietly, and at once. 
3Ir. Wynne looked up in suiqiriso, and observed that he should he 
afraid that such putting out of misery might be looked upon as homi- 
cide by some people. Mr. Gibson said in a dry tone, that for his 
part he should not mind the imputation of homicide, but that it would 
not do to make away with profitable patients in so speedy a manner ; 
and that he thought that as long as they were willing and able to pay 
two-and-sixponcc for tho doctor's visit, it was his duty to keep them 
alive ; of course, when they became paupers the case was ditrerent. 
Mr. "Wynne pondered over tliis speech ; Mr. Coxo only laughed. 
At last Mr. "Wynne said, — 

" But you go every moniing, sir, before breakH^st to sec old 
Nancy Grant, and you've ordered her this medicine, sir, which is 
about the most costly in Corbyn's bill ? " 

" Have you not found out how dillicult it is for men to live up to 
their precepts ? You've a great deal to learn yet, Mr. "Wynne 1 " 
said ^Ir. Gibson, leaving the surgery- as he spoke. 



44 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" I never can make the governor out," said Mr. "Wynne, in a tone 
of utter despair. '* What are you Laughing at Coxey ? " 

" Oh ! I'm thinking how blest you are in having parents •who have 
instilled moral principles into your youthful bosom. You'd go and 
be poisoning all the paupers off, if you hadn't been told that murder 
was a crime by your mother ; you'd be thinking you were doing as 
you were bid, and quote old Gibson's words when you came to be 
tried. ' Please, my lord judge, they were not able to pay for my 
visits, and so I followed the rules of the profession as taught me 
by Mr. Gibson, the great surgeon at HoUingford, and poisoned the 
paupers.' " 

" I can't bear that scoffing way of his." 

" And I like it. If it wasn't for the governor's fun, and the 
tamarinds, and something else that I know of, I would run oft' to 
India. I hate stifling towns, and sick people, and the smell of 
drugs, and the stink of pills on my hands ; — faugh ! " 



( 45 ) 



CHAPTER V. 

CALF-LOVE. 

Onf. (l:xy, for some reason or other, Mr. Gibson canio home unex- 
pectedly. Ho was crossing the hall, having come in by the garden- 
door — the garden communicated with the stable -yard, where ho had 
left his horse — when the kitchen door oiicucd, and the girl who was 
underling in the establishmont, camo quickly into tha hall with a 
note in her hand, and made as if she was taking it upstairs ; but on 
seeing her master she gave a little start, and turned back as if to 
hide herself in the kitchen. If she had not made this movement, 
so conscious of guilt, Mr. Gibson, who was anything but suspicious, 
would never have taken any notice of her. As it was, ho stepped 
quickly forwards, opened the kitchen door, and called out " Bethia " 
so sharply that she could not delay coming forwards. 

" Give me that note," he said. She hesitated a little. 

" It's for Miss Molly," she stammered out. 

'* Give it to me ! " he repeated more quickly than before. She 
looked as if she would cry ; but still she kept the note tight held 
behind her back. 

*' He said as I was to give it into her own hands ; and I promised 
as I would, faithful." 

" Cook, go and find Miss Molly. Tell her to come here at 
once." 

He fixed Bethia with his eyes. It was of no use tr^in*^ to 
escape : she might have thrown it into the fire, but she had not 
presence of mind enough. She stood immovable, only her eyes 
looked any way rather than encounter her master's steady gaze. 
" Molly, my dear! " 

•' Papa ! I did not know you were at home," said innocent, 
wondering Molly. 



46 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Bethia, keep your word. Here is Miss Molly ; give her the 
note." 

" Indeed, miss, I couldn't help it ! " 

Molly took the note, but before she could open it, her father 
said, — " That's all, my dear; j'ou need not read it. Give it to me- 
Tell those who sent you, Bethia, that all letters for Miss Molly must 
pass through my hands. Now be off with you, goosey, and go back 
to where you came from." 

" Papa, I shall make you tell me who my con-espondent is." 

" We'll see about that, by-and-by." 

She went a little reluctantly, with ungratified curiosity, upstairs 
to Miss Eyre, who was still her daily companion, if not her 
governess. He turned into the empty dining-room, shut the door, 
broke the seal of the note, and began to read it. It was a flaming 
love-letter from Mr. Coxo ; who professed himself unable to go on 
seeing her day after day without speaking to her of the passion she 
had inspired — an " eternal passion," he called it ; on reading which 
Mr. Gibson laughed a little. Would she not look kindly at him ? 
would she 'not think of him whose only thought was of her ? and so 
on, with a very proper admixture of violent compHments to her 
beauty. She was fair, not pale ; her eyes were loadstars, her 
dimples marks of Cupid's finger, &c. 

Mr. Gibson finished reading it ; and began to think about it in 
his own mind. " Who would have thought the lad had been so 
poetical ? but, to be sure, there's a * Shakspeare ' in the surgery 
library ; I'll take it away and put ' Johnson's Dictionary ' instead. 
One comfort is the conviction of her perfect innocence — ignorance, I 
should rather say — for it is easy to see it's the first ' confession of 
his love,' as he calls it. But it's an awful worry — to begin with 
lovers so early. Why, she's only just seventeen, — not seventeen, 
indeed, till July ; not for six weeks yet. Sixteen and three-quarters ! 
Why, she's quite a baby. To be sure — poor Jeanie was not so old, 
and how I did love her ! '' (Mrs. Gibson's name was Mary, so he 
must have been referring to some one else.) Then his thoughts 
wandered back to other days, though he still held the open note in 
his hand. By-and-by his eyes fell upon it again, and his mind came 
back to bear upon the present time. "I'll not be hard upon him. 
I'll give him a hint ; he is quite sharp enough to take it. Poor 
laddie ! if I send him away, which would be the wisest coui'se, I do 
believe he's got no home to go to." 




A Lots LsriKK. 



CALP-LOVE. 47 

After a littlo moro consulcnitiou in tho samo straiu, Mr. Gibson 
wont ami Put down at tho writiug-tablc auJ wroto tho following 
formula : — 

^faster Coxe. 

("That 'master' will touch him to tho quick," naid Mr. Gibson 
to himself as ho wrote tho word.) 

9). Vcrccandi.T ,^i. 

i'itli'litatis Domcsticio 31. 
Kcticciitiif i^T. iij. 

M. Cai)iat hiinc dosiiu tor dio iu aquu pura. 

E. Gibson, Ch. 

Mr. Gibson smiled a littlo sadly as ho rc-rcad bis words. " Poor 
Jeauie," he said aloud. And then ho choso out an envelope, enclosed 
the fervid love-letter, and tho above prescription ; sealed it with his 
own sharply-cut seal-ring, 1\. G., in old English letters, and then 
paused over tho address. 

** He'll not like Mtiftcr Coxc outside ; no need to put him to 
uuneccssary shame." So tho direction on the envelope was — 

Edudid Ciur, Es(j. 

Then Jilr. Gibson applied himself, to the professional business 
which had brought him homo so opportunely and unexpectedly, and 
afterwards he went back through the garden to tho stables ; and just 
as he had mounted his horse, ho said to tho stable-man, — " Oh ! by 
the way, here's a letter for Mr. Coxe. Don't send it through the 
women ; take it round yourself to the surgery-door, and do it at 
once." 

The slight smile upon his face, as ho rode out of the gates, died 
away as soon as ho found himself in the solitude of the lanes. Ho 
slackened his speed, and began to tliiuk. It was ver)- awkward, he 
considered, to have a motherless girl growing up into womanhood in 
the same house with two young men, even if she only met them at 
meal-times ; and all the intercourse they had with each other was 
merely tho utterance of such words as, " May I help you to potatoes ? " 
or, as Mr. Wynne would persevere iu saying, " May I assist you to 
potatoes ? " — a fonn of speech which gi-ated daily more and more 
upon Mr. Gibson's cars. Yet 3Ir. Coxc, tho ofl'endcr in this atfair 
which had just occuiTed, had to remain for thi-ce ycai*s more as 
a pupil in Mi-. Gibson'? family. He should bo the very last of the 



48 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

race. Still there were three j'ears to be got over ; aud if this stupid 
passionate calf-love of his lasted, what was to be done ? Sooner or 
later Molly would become aware of it. The contingencies of the 
affair were so excessively disagreeable to contemplate, that Mr. Gibson 
determined to dismiss the subject from his mind by a good strong 
effort. He put his horse to a gallop, and found that the violent 
shaking over the lanes — paved as they were with round stones, which 
had been dislocated by the wear and tear of a hundred years — was 
the very best thing for the spirits, if not for the bones. He made a 
long round that afternoon, and came back to his home imagining 
that the worst was over, and that Mr. Coxe would have taken the 
hint conveyed in the prescription. All that would be needed was to 
find a safe place for the unfortunate Bethia, who had displayed such 
a daring aptitude for intrigue. But Mr. Gibson reckoned without his 
host. It was the habit of the young men to come in to tea with the 
family in the dining-room, to swallow two cups, munch their bread 
and toast, and then disappear. This night Mr. Gibson watched their 
countenances furtively from under his long eye-lashes, while he tried 
against his wont to keep up a degage manner, and a brisk conversa- 
tion on general subjects. He saw that Mr. Wynne was on the point 
of breaking out into laughter, and that red-haired, red-faced Mr. Coxe 
was redder and fiercer than ever, while his whole aspect aud ways 
betrayed indignation and anger. 

" He will have it, will he ?" thought Mr. Gibson to himself; and 
he girded up ,his loins for the battle. He did not follow Molly and 
Miss Eyre into the drawing-room as he usually did. He remained 
where he was, pretending to read the newspaper, while Bethia, her 
face swelled up with crying, and with an aggrieved and offended 
aspect, removed the tea-things. Not five minutes after the room was 
cleared, came the expected tap at the door. " May I speak to you, 
sir ? " said the invisible Mr. Coxe, from outside. 

"To be sure. Come in, Mr. Coxe. I was rather wanting to 
talk to you about that bill of Corbyn's. Pray sit down." 

"It is about nothing of that kind, sir, that I wanted — that I 
wished — No, thank you — I would rather not sit down." He, accord- 
ingly, stood in offended dignity. "It is about that letter, sir — that 
letter with the insulting prescription, sir." 

" Insulting prescription ! I am surprised at such a word being 
applied to any prescription of mine — though, to be sure, patients are 
sometimes offended at being told the nature of their illnesses ; aud, 



CALF-LOVE. 49 

I ilarosay, they may take offonco nt the mcilicincs which their cases 
iV(|uin'." 

" I ilitl not aslv you to prescribe for ino." 

" Oil, uo ! Then you were tho Master Coxo wlio sent the note 
through Btlliia ! Let nie tell you it has cost her her place, and was 
ii very silly letter into tho bargain." 

" It was not tho conduct of a gentleman, sir, to intercept it, and 
to open it, and to read words never addressed to you, sir." 

" No ! " said Mr. Gibson, with a slight twinkle in his eye and a 
curl on his lips, not unnoticed by tho indignant Mr. Coxe. " I 
believe I was once considered tolerably good-looking, and I daresay 
I was as great a coxcomb as any ono at twenty ; but I don't think 
that even then I should quite have believed that all those pretty com- 
pliments were addressed to myself." 

" It was not the conduct of a gentleman, sir," repeated Mr. Coxe, 
stammering over his words — lie was going on to say something more, 
when Mr. Gibson broke in, — 

" And let mo tell you, young man," replied Mr. Gibson, with a 
sudden sternness in his voice, "that what you have done is only 
fxcusablo in consideration of your j'outh and extreme ignorance 
of what arc considered tho laws of domestic honour. I receive you 
into my house as a member of the family — you induce one of my 
servants — corrupting her with a bribe, I have no doubt " 

" Indeed, sir ! I never gave her a penny." 

" Then you ought to have done. You should always pay those 
who do your dirt}- work." 

" Just now, sir, you called it corrupting with a bribe," muttered 
:\Ir. Coxe. 

" Mr. Gibson took no notico of this speech, but went on — 
" Inducing one of my servants to risk her place, without offericg her 
tho slightest equivalent, by begging her to convey a letter clandes- 
tinely to my daughter — a mere child." 

" Miss Gibson, sir, is nearly seventeen ! I heard you say so 
only tho other day," said Mr. Coxe, aged twenty. Again Mr. Gibsoa 
ignored tho remark. 

"A letter which yon were unwilling to have seen by her father, 
v.lio had tacitly trusted to your honour, by receiving you as an inmato 
of his house. Your father's son — I know Major Coxe well — ought 
to have come to me, and have said out openly, Mr. Gibson, I love — 
or I fancy thftt I love — your daughter; I do not think it right to 
Vol. I. 4 



50 AVIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

conceal this from j'ou, altliougli unable to earn a peunj' ; an<l with no 
prospect of an unassisted livelihood, even for myself, for several 
years, I s.hall not say a word about my feelings — or fancied feelings 
— to the very young lady herseE. That is what your father's son 
ought to have said ; if, indeed, a couple of grains of reticent silence 
would not have been better still." 

" And if I had said it, sir — perhaps I ought to have said it," 
said Mr. Coxe, in a hurry of anxiety, " what would have been your 
answer ? Would you have sanctioned my passion, sir ? " 

" I would have said, most probably — I will not be certain of my 
exact words in a suppositious case — that you were a young fool, but 
not a dishonourable young fool, and I should have told you not to let 
your thoughts run upon a calf-love until you had magnified it into a 
passion. And I daresay, to make up for the mortification I should 
have given you, I should have prescribed your joining the Hollingford 
Cricket Club, and set you at liberty as often as I could on the 
Saturday afternoons. As it is, I must write to your father's agent 
in London, and ask him to remove you out of my household, repay- 
ing the premium, of course, which will enable you to start afresh in 
some other doctor's surgery." 

" It will so grieve my father," said Mr. Coxe, startled into 
dismay, if not repentance. 

" I see no other course open. It will give Major Coxe some 
trouble (I shall take care that he is at no extra expense), but what 
I think will grieve him the most is the betrayal of confidence ; 
for I trusted you, Robert, like a son of my own ! " There was 
something in jMr, Gibson's voice when he spoke seriously, 
especially when he referred to any feeling of his ovrn — he v/ho 
so rarely betrayed what was passing in his heart — that was irre- 
sistible to most people : the change from joking and sarcasm to 
tender gravity. 

Mr. Coxe hung his head a little, and meditated. 

" I do love Miss Gibson," said he, at length. " Who could 
help it ? " 

** Mr. Wynne, I hope ! " said Mr. Gibson. 

" His heart is pre-engaged," replied Mr. Coxe. " Mine was 
free as air till I saw her." 

" Would it tend to cure your — well ! passion, we'll say — if she 
wore blue spectacles at meal-times ? I observe you dwell much on 
the beauty of her eyes." 



CALF- LOVE. 61 

" You iiro riJic'uling my foelinps, Mr. Gibsou. Do you forget 
thill you yourself wore young once ?" 

"Poor Joaaio" rose before Mr. Gibson's eyes; and Lo felt a 
little rcbukeil. 

" Come, Mr. Coxo, lot us see if we cau't muke a b»irgain," said 
he, afL'r a minute or so of silence. " You have done a really wrong 
thing, and I hope you arc convinced of it iu your heart, or that you 
will bo when the heat of this discussion is over, and you come to 
think a little about it. But I won't lose all respect for your father's 
Kou. If you will give me your word that, as long as you remain a 
member of my family — pupil, apprentice, what you will — you won't 
again tiy to jdiscloso your passion — you see I am careful to take 
your view of what I should call a mere fancy — by word or writing, 
looks or acts, in any manner whatever, to my daughter, or to talk 
about your feelings to any ono else, you shall remain here. If you 
cannot give me your word, I must follow out the course I named, 
and ^vrite to your father's agent." 

"Mr. Coxe stood irresolute. 

" Mr. "\V3-nno knows all I feel for Jliss Gibson, sir. He and I 
have no secrets from each other." 

" Well, I suppose he must represent the reeds. Y^ou know the 
story of Iving Jlidas's bai'ber, who found out that his royal master 
had the ears of an ass beneath his hyacinthine curls. So the 
barber, in default of a Mr. Wynne, went to the reeds that grew 
on the shores of a neighbouring lake, and whispered to them, 
' King Midas has the eai's of an ass.' But he repeated it so often 
that the reeds learnt the words, and kept on saying them all day 
long, till at last the secret was no secret at all. K you keep 
on telling your tale to Mr. Wynne, are you sure he won't repeat 
it in liis tui-n ?" 

"If I pledge my word as a gentleman, sir, I pledge it for 
Mr. Wynne as well." 

"I suppose I must run the risk. But remember how soon a 
young girl's name may bo breathed upon, and sullied. Molly has no 
mother, and for that ver}- reason she ought to move among you all, 
as unharmed as Una herself." 

" Mr. Gibsou, if you wish it, I'll swear it on the Bible," cried the 
excitable young man. 

" Nonsense. As if your word, if it's worth anything, was not 
enough ! We'll shake hands upon it, if you like." 

i—2 



52 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Mr. Coxe came forward eagerly, and almost squeezed Mr. Gibson's 
ring into his finger. 

As he was leaving the room, he said, a little uneasily, " May I 
give Bethia a crown-piece ?" 

" No, indeed ! Leave Bethia to me. I hope you won't say 
another word to her while she is here. I shall see that she gets a 
respectable place when she goes away." 

Then Mr. Gibson rang for his horse, and went out on the last 
visits of the day. He used to reckon that he rode the world around 
in the course of the year. There were not many surgeons in the 
county who had so wide a range of practice as he ; he went to lonely 
cottages on the borders of great commons ; to farm-houses at the 
end of narrow countiy lanes that led to nowhere else, and were over- 
shadowed by the elms and beeches overhead. He attended all the 
gentry within a circle of fifteen miles round Hollingford ; and was 
the appointed doctor to the still greater families who went up to 
London every February — as the fashion then was — and returned to 
their acres in the early weeks of July. He was, of necessity, a great 
deal from home, and on this soft and pleasant summer evening he felt 
the absence as a great evil. He was startled into discovering that 
his little one was growing flist into a woman, and already the passive 
object of some of the strong interests that affect a woman's life ; 
and he — her mother as well as her father — so much away that he 
could not guard her as he would have wished. The end of his cogi- 
tations was that ride to Hamley the next morning, when he proposed 
to allow his daughter to accept Mrs. Hamley's last invitation — an 
invitation that had been declined at the time. 

" You may quote against me the proverb, 'He that will not when 
he may, when he will he shall have nay.' And I shall have no reason 
to complain," he had said. 

But Mrs. Hamley was only too much charmed with the prospect 
of having a young girl for a visitor ; one whom it would not be a 
trouble to entertain ; who might be sent out to ramble in the gardens, 
or told to read when the invalid was too much fatigued for conversa- 
tion ; and yet one whose youth and freshness would bring a charm, 
like a waffc of sweet summer air, into her lonely shut-up life. 
Nothing could be pleasanter, and so Molly's visit to Hamley was 
easily settled. 

" I only wish Osborne and Roger had been at home," said 
Mrs. Hamley, in her low soft voice. " She may find it dull, being 



CALi'-Lovi;. 68 

with dill people, like the t;quiro ami mc, iVoiu morning till night. 
When can she conic ".' tlio durliug — I um bcgiuuiug to lovo her 
already 1" 

Mr. Gibson was very glad in Lis heart that the young men of tho 
houso woro out of tho way ; ho did not want his little Molly to bo 
passing from Scylla to Charybilis ; and, as he aftcnvards scoffed at 
himself for thinking, ho had got an idea that all young men were 
wolves in chase of his ono ewe-lamb. 

" Siio knows nothing of the pleasure in store for her," he replied ; 
" and I am sure I don't know what feminine preparations she may 
think necessary, or how long they may take. You'll remember she 
is a little ignoramus, and has had no ... . training in etiquette ; 
our ways at home are rather rough for a girl, I'm afraid. But I 
know I could not send her into a kinder atmosphere than this." 

AVhen tho squire heard from his wife of Mr. Gibson's proposal, 
ho was as much pleased as she at the prospect of their youthful 
visitor ; for he was a man of a hearty hospitality, when his pride did 
not interfere with its gratiiicatiou ; and he was delighted to think of 
his sick wife's having such an agreeable companion in her hours of 
loneliness. After a while he said, — " It's as well the lads are at 
Cambridge ; we might have been having a love-affau* if they had 
been at home." 

" Well — and if wc had?" asked his more romantic wife. 

" It would not have done," said the squire, decidedly. "Osbomo 
will have had a first-rate education — as good as any man in the 
county— he'll have this property, and he's a Hamley of Hamley ; 
not a family in tho shire is as old as wo are, or settled on their 
ground so well. Osbonie may marry wlieu ho likes. If Lord Hol- 
lingford had a daughter, Osborne would have been as good a match 
as she could have required. It would never do for him to fall in 
lovo with Gibson's daughter — I should not allow it. So it's as well 
he's out of tho way." 

" Well ! perhaps Osborne had better look higher." 

" Perhaps ! I say he must." The squire brought his hand 
down with a thump on tho table, near him, which made his wife's 
heart beat hard for some minutes. " And as for Roger," he con- 
tinued, unconscious of tho flutter ho had put her into, " he'll have 
to make his own way, and eani his own bread ; and, I'm afraid, he's 
not getting on very brilliantly at Cambridge. Ho must not think of 
falling in love for these ton vears." 



54 WIVES AND- DAUGHTERS. 

" Unless he marries a foi-tune," said Mrs. Hamley, more by way 
of concealing her palpitation than anything else ; for she was 
unworldly and romantic to a fault. 

" No son of mine shall ever marry a wife who is richer than 
himself with my good will," said the squire again, with emphasis, 
but without a thump. 

" I don't say but what if lioger is gaining five hundred a year 
by the time he's thirty, he shall not choose a 'wife with ten thousand 
pounds down ; but I do say, if a boy of mine, with only two hundred 
a year — which is all Roger will have from us, and that not for a long 
time — goes and marries a woman with fifty thousand to her portion, 
I will diso-\\Ti him — it would be just disgusting." 

" Not if they loved each other, and their v.hole happiness de- 
pended upon their marrying each other," put in Mrs. Hamley, 
mildly. 

" Pooh ! away with love ! Nay, my dear, we loved each other 
so dearly we should never have been happy with any one else ; but 
that's a different thing. People are not like what they were when 
we were young. All the love nowadays is just silly fancy, and 
sentimental romance, as far as I can see." 

Mr. Gibson thought that he had settled everything about Molly's 
going to Hamley befoi-e he spoke to her about it, which he did not 
do, until the morning of the day on which Mrs. Hamley expected 
her. Then he said, — " By the way, Molly ! you are to go to Hamley 
this afternoon ; Mrs. Hamley wants you to go to her for a week or 
two, and it suits me capitally that you should accept her invitation 
just now." 

"Go to Hamley ! This afternoon ! Papa, you've got some odd 
reasons at the back of your head — some mystery, or something. 
Please, tell me what it is. Go to Hamley for a week or two ! "Why, 
I never was from home before this without you in all my life." 

" Perhaps not. I don't think you ever walked before you put 
your feet to the ground. Eveiything must have a beginning." 

" It has something to do with that letter that was directed to me, 
but that you took out of my hands before I could even see the 
writing of the direction." She fixed her grey eyes on her father's 
face, as if she meant to pluck out his secret. 

He only smiled and said, — " You're a witch, goosey!" 

" Then it had ! But if it was a note from Mrs. Hamley, why 
might I not see it ? I have been wondering if you had some plan 



CALK-LOVK. 65 

in yonr head ever since that Jay. — Tlinrsday, was not it ? You've 
gone about in a kind of thoughtful, perplexed way, just like a con- 
spirator. Tell mo, papa " — ooniing up at the time, and puttin<; on a 
beseeching manner — " why might not I see that note? and why um 
I to go to Ilamloy all on a sudden ?" 

" Don't yoa like to go ? Would you rather not ?" If she had 
said that she did not want to go ho would have been rather pleased 
than otlu rwiso, although it would have put him into a great per- 
plexity; but ho was beginning to dread the parting from her even 
lor so short a time. Ilowever, ^ho replied directly, — 

" I don't know — I daresay I shall like it when I have thought 
a little more about it. Just now I am so startled by the suddenness 
of the affair, I haven't considered whether I shall like it or not. I 
shan't like going away from you, I know. Why am I to go, papa ? " 

" There are three old ladies sitting somewhere, and thinking 
about you just at this verj- minute ; one has a distaff in her hand.?, 
and is spinning a thread ; she has come to a knot in it, and is puzzled 
what to do with it. Her sister has a great pair of scissors in her 
hands, and wants — as she always does, wlieu any ditficulty arises in 
the smoothness of the thread — to cut it off short ; but the third, 
who has the most head of the three, plans how to undo the knot ; 
and she it is who has decided that you are to go to Hamley. The 
othei*s are quite convinced by her argiaments ; so, as the Fates 
have decreed that this visit is to be paid, there is nothing left for 
you and me but to submit." 

" That ia all nonsense, papa, and you are only making me more 
curious to find out this hidden reason." 

Mr. Gibson changed his tone, and spoke gravely now. " There 
is a reason, Molly, and one which I do not wish to give. When I 
tell you this much, I expect you to be an honourable girl, and to try 
and not even conjecture what the reason may be, — much less en- 
deavour to put little discoveries together till very likely you may find 
out what 1 want to conceal." 

" Papa, I won't even think about your reason again. But then 
I shall havo to plague you with another question. I have had no 
new gown this year, and I havo outgrown all my last summer frocks. 
I have only three that I can wear at all. Betty was saying only 
yesterday that I ought to have some more." 

" That'll do that you havo got on, won't it ? It's a very pretty 
colour." 



56 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Yes ; but, papa " (holding "it out as if slie was going to dance), 
" it's made of woollen, and so hot and heavy ; and every day it will 
he getting wanner." 

" I wish girls could dress like hoys," said Mr. Gibson, with a 
little impatience. " How is a man to know when his^ daughter wants 
clothes ? and how is he to rig her out when he finds it out, just 
when she needs them most and hasn't got them ? " 

" Ah, that's the question ! " said Molly, in some despair. 
" Can't you go to Miss Rose's ? Doesn't she keep ready-made 
frocks for girls of your age ? " 

" Miss Rose ! I never had anything from her in my life," replied 
Molly, in some surprise ; for Miss Rose was the great dressmaker 
and milliner of the little town, and hitherto Betty had made the 
girl's frocks. 

" Well, but it seems people consider 5-ou as a young woman now, 
and so I suppose you must run up milliners' bills like the rest of 
your kind. Not that you're to get anything anywhere that you can't 
l^ay for down in ready money. Here's a ten-pound note ; go to 
Miss Rose's, or Miss anybody's, and get what you want at once. 
The Hamlcy carriage is to come for you at two, and anything that 
isn't quite ready, can easily be sent by their cart on Saturday, when 
some of their people always come to market. Nay, don't thank me ! 
I don't want to have the money spent, and I don't want you to go 
and leave me : I shall miss you, I know ; it's only hard necessity 
that drives me to send you a-visiting, and to throw avray ten pounds 
on your clothes. There, go away; you're a plague, and I mean to 
leave off loving joix as fast as I can." 

"Papa! " holding up her finger as in warning, " you're getting 
mysterious again ; and though my honourableuess is very strong, I 
won't promise that it shall not yield to my curiosity if you go on 
hinting at untold secrets." 

" Go away and spend your ten pounds. What did I give it you 
for but to keep you quiet ? " 

Miss Rose's ready-made resources and Molly's taste combined, 
did not arrive at a very great success. She bought a lilac print, 
because it would wash, and would be cool and pleasant for the 
mornings ; and this Betty could make at home before Saturday. 
And for high-days and holidays — by which was understood after- 
noons and Sundays — Miss Rose persuaded her to order a gay- 
coloured flimsy plaid silk, which she assured her was quite the latest 



CALF-LOVE. 57 

fashion in Loiulou, auil which Molly thought would plcaso her 
fiithor's Scotch blood. Hut whcu ho saw tlio scrap which nho had 
brought homo as a pattern, ho cried out that tho plaid belonged to 
no clan in existence, and that Molly ought to havo known this by 
instinct. It was too lato to change it, however, for Miss Koso had 
promised to cut the dress out as soon as ^lolly left her shop. 

Mr. Gibson had hung about tho town all tho morning instead of 
going away ou his usual distant rides. lie passed his daughter 
onco or twice in tho street, but ho did not cross over when he was 
on tho opposite side — only gave her a look or a nod, and went ou his 
way, scolding himself for his weakness in feeling so much pain at 
tho thought of her absence for a fortnight or so. 

"And, after all," thought he, " I'm only where I was when she 
comes back ; at least, if that foolish fellow goes on with his imagi- 
nating fancy. She'll have to como back some time, and if ho chooses 
to imagine himself constant, there's still the devil to pay." Presently 
ho began to hum the aii* out of the " Beggar's Opera " — 

I wonder niiy man alive 

Should ever rear a daii;rhtcr. 



( 58 ) 



CHAPTER YI. 

A VISIT TO THE HAilLEYS. 

Of course the news of Miss Gibson's approaehiug departure had 
spread through the household befor^e the one o'clock dinner-time 
came ; and Mr. Coxe's dismal countenance was a source of much 
inward irritation to Mr. Gibson, Avho kept giving the youth shai^p 
glances of savage reproof for his melancholy face, and want of 
appetite ; which he trotted out, with a good deal of sad ostentation ; 
all of which was lost upon Molly, who was too full of her own per- 
sonal concerns to have any thought or observation to spare from 
them, excepting once or twice when she thought of the many days 
that must pass over before she should again sit do^^•n to dinner with 
her father. 

When she named this to him after the meal was done, and they 
were sitting together in the drawing-room, waiting for the sound of 
the wheels of the Hamley carriage, he laughed, and said, — 

" I'm coming over to-morrow to see Mrs. Hamley ; and I dare- 
say I shall dine at their lunch ; so you won't have to wait long before 
you've the treat of seeing the wdld beast feed." 

Then they heard the approaching carriage. 

" Oh, papa," said Molly, catching at his hand, " I do so wish I 
was not going, now that the time is come." 

"Nonsense; don't let us have any sentiment. Have you got 
your keys ? that's more to the purpose." 

"Yes; she had got her keys, and her purse ; and her little box 
was put up on the seat by the coachman ; and her father handed her 
in ; the door was shut, and she drove away in solitary grandeur, 
looking back and kissing her hand to her father, who stood at the 
gate, in spite of his dislike of sentiment, as long as the carriage 
could be seen. Then he turned into the surgery, and found Mr. 



A VISIT TO TlIK 1IAMLEV8. 69 

' Coxe bad luul his watching too, aud had, iudocd, remained at the 
window f^tiziuf,', moonstrack, nt the empty road, u[) which llie young 
lady Iiiul disiij)[U'iired. Mr. Ctibsou stiirtled him from his reverio by 
a sharp, almost venomous, speech about some small neglect of duty 
n day or two before. That night Mr. Gibson inaislcd on passing by 
tlie bedside of a poor girl whoso parents wcro vroru-out by many 
wakeful anxious nights succeeding to hard-working days. 

Molly cried a little, but checked her tears as soon as she remem- 
bered how annoyed her father would have been at the bight of them. 
It was \evy pleasant driving quickly along in the luxurious carriage, 
through the pretty green lanes, with dog-roses and honeysuckles so 
plentiful aud fresh iu the hedges, that she once or twice was tempted 
to ask the coachman to stop till she had gathered a nosegay. She 
began to dread the end of her little journey of seven miles ; the 
only drawback to which was, that her silk was not a true clan-tartan, 
and a little uucci-tainty as to Miss Rose's punctuality. At length 
they came to a village ; straggling cottages lined the road, an old 
church stood on a kind of gi*een, with the public-house close by it ; 
there was a gi-eat tree, with a bench all round the trunk, midway 
between the church gates and the little inn. The wooden stocks 
were close to the gates. Molly had long passed the limit of her 
rides, but she knew this must be the village of Hamley, and they 
must be very near to the hall. 

They swung in at the gates of the park in a few minutes, and 
drove up through meadow-grass, ripening for hay, — it was no grand 
aristocratic deer-park this — to the old red-brick hall ; not three 
hundred yards from the high-road. There had been no footman sent 
with the carriage, but a respectable servant stood at the door, even 
before they drew up, ready to receive the expected visitor, and take 
her into the drawing-room where his mistress lay awaiting her. 

Mrs. Uamley rose from her sofa to give Molly a gentle welcome ; 
she kept the girl's hand in hers after she had finished speaking, 
looking into her face, as if studying it, and unconscious of the faint 
blush she called up on the otlierwise colourless cheeks. 

*' I think we shall be great friends," said she, at length. '• I like 
your face, and I am always guided by first impressions. Give me a 
kiss, my dear." 

It was far easier to be active than passive during this process of 
*' swearing eternal friendship," and Molly willingly kissed the sweet 
pale face held up to her. 



60 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

" I meant to have gone and fotclied you mj'self ; but the heat 
oppresses me, and I did not feel up to the exertion. I hope you had 
a pleasant drive ? " 

" Very," said Molly, \vith shy conciseness. 

" And now I will take you to your room ; I have had j'ou pat 
close to me ; I thought you would like it better, even though it was 
a smaller room than the other. 

She rose languidly, and wrapping her light shawl round her yet 
elegant figure, led the way upstairs. Molly's bedroom opened out of 
Mrs. Hamley's private sitting-room ; on the other side of which was 
her own bedroom. She showed Molly this easy means of communi- 
cation, and then, telling her visitor she would await her in the 
sitting-room, she closed the door, and Molly was left at leisure to 
make acquaintance \vitli her surroundings. 

First of all, she went to the window to see what was to be seen. 
A flower-garden right below ; a meadow of ripe grass just beyond, 
changing colour in long sweeps, as the soft wind blew over it ; great 
old forest-trees a little on one side ; and, beyond them again, to be 
seen only by standing very close to the side of the window-sill, or by 
putting her head out, if the window was open, the silver shimmer of 
a mere, about a quarter of a mile ofi\ On the opposite side to the 
trees and the mere, the look-out was bounded by the old walls and 
high-peaked roofs of the extensive farm-buildings. The delicious- 
ness of the early summer silence was only broken by the song of the 
birds, and the nearer hum of bees. Listening to these sounds, 
which enhanced the exquisite sense of stillness, and puzzling out 
objects obscured by distance or shadow, Molly forgot herself, and 
was suddenly startled into a sense of the present by a sound of 
voices in the next room — some servant or other speaking to Mrs. 
Hamloy. !Molly hurried to unpack her box, and arrange her few 
clothes in the pretty old-fashioned chest of di'awers, which was to 
serve her as dressing-table as well. All the furniture in the room 
was as old-fashioned and as well-preseiTed as it could be. The 
chintz curtains were Indian calico of the last centuiy — the colours 
almost washed out, but the stuft" itself exquisitely clean. There was 
a little strip of bedside cai-petiug, but the wooden flooring, thus 
liberally displayed, Avas of finely-grained oak, so firmly joined, plank 
to plank, that no grain of dust could make its way into the inter- 
stices. There were none of the luxuries of modern days ; no 
writing-table, or sofa, or pier-glass. lu one corner of the walls was 



A VISIT TO Tin: HAMLKYS. 01 

a bracket, holdiiij:* an Iiuliiin jar lilli'd with pot-pourri ; ninl that and 
Iho oliiiihin;^ htnicysiu-klt' oiitsido tho open window scented tlio room 
more exquisitely than any toilotto perfumes. Molly laid out her 
white gown (of last year's date and si/e) upon the bed, ready.for tho 
(ti) her now) operation of dressing for dinner, and liavin^; arranged 
her hair and dress, and taken out her company worsted-work, she 
opened tho door softly, and saw Mrs. Hamley lying on tho sofa. 

" Shall wo stay up licre, my dear ? I think it is pleusantcr than 
down below ; and then I shall not have to come upstairs again at 
dressing-time." 

" I shall like it very mucl)," replied Molly. 

" Ah ! you've got your sewing, like a good girl," said ^Irs. 
Hamley. " Now, I don't sew much. I livo alono a gi-eut deal. 
You see, both my boys are at Cambridge, and the squire is out of 
loors all day long — so I have almost forgotten how to sew. I read 
1 great deal. Do you like reading ? " 

"It depends upon tho kind of book," said I\IoIly. " I'm afraid I 
Jon't liko ' steady reading,' as papa calls it." 

" Rut you like poetry!" said Mrs. Hamloy, almost interrupting 
Rlolly. " I was sure you did, from your face. Have you read this 
iast poem of Mrs. Hemans ? Shall I read it aloud to you ? " 

So she began. ]Molly was not so much absorbed in listening 
but that she could glance round tho room. Tho character of tho 
furniture was much the same as in her own. Old-fashioned, of 
aandsorao material, and faultlessly clean ; the age and the foreign 
ippoarancc of it gave an aspect of comfort and pictui'esqueness to 
die whole apartment. On tho walls there hung some crayon sketches 
— portraits. She thought she could make out that one of them was 
i likeness of Mrs. Hamley, in her beautiful youth. And then she 
jecame interested in the poem, and dropped her work, and listened 
n a manner that was after Mrs. Hamley 's own heart. ^Yhen the 
•eading of the poem was ended, ^Irs. Hamley replied to some of 
Molly's words of admiration, by saying. 

''Ah! I think I must read you some of Osborne's poetry some 
lay ; under seal of secrecy, remember ; but I really fancy they are 
dmost as good as Mrs. Hemans'." 

To bo nearly as good as Mr. Hemans' was saying as much to 
he young ladies of that day, as saying that poetry is nearly as 
;ood as Tennyson's would be in this. Molly looked up with eager 
ntcrest. 



62 



WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 



" Mr. Osborne Hamley ? Does your son write poetry ? " 

" Yes. I really think I may say he is a poet. He is a very 
brilliant, clever young man, and he quite hopes to get a fellowship 
at Trinity. He says he is sure to be high up among the wranglers, 
and that he expects to get one of the Chancellor's medals. That is ! 
his likeness — the one hanging against the wall behind you." 

Molly turned round, and saw''oue of the crayon sketches — repre- 
senting two boys, in the most youthful kind of jackets and trousers, 
and falling collars. The elder was sitting down, reading intently. 
The younger was standing by him, and evidently trying to call the 
attention of the reader off to some object out of doors — out of the 
window of the very room in which they were sitting, as Molly dis- 
covered when she began to recognize the articles of furniture faintly 
indicated in the picture. 

" I like their faces ! " said Molly. " I suppose it is so long ago 
now, that I may speak of their likenesses to you as if they were 
somebody else ; may not I ? " 

" Certainly," said Mrs. Hamley, as soon as she understood what 
Molly meant. " Tell me just what you think of them, my dear ; 
it will amuse me to compare your impressions with what they really 
are." 

" Oh ! but I did not mean to guess at their characters. I could 
not do it ; and it would be impertinent, if I could. I can only speak 
about their faces as I see them in the picture. 

" Well ! tell me what you think of them ! " 

" The eldest — the reading boy — is very beautiful ; but I can't 
quite make out his face yet, because his head is down, and I can't 
see the eyes. That is the Mr. Osborne Hamley who writes poetry." 

" Yes. He is not quite so handsome now ; but he was a beauti- 
ful boy. Koger was never to be compared with him." 

*' No ; he is not handsome. And yet I like his face. I can see 
his eyes. They are grave and solemn-looking ; but all the rest of 
his face is rather merry than otherwise. It looks too steady and 
sober, too good a face, to go tempting his brother to leave his 
lesson." 

" Ah ! but it was not a lesson. I remember the painter, 
Mr. Green, once saw Osborne reading some poetry, while Roger was 
trying to persuade him to come out and have a ride in the hay-cart — 
that was the ' motive ' of the picture, to speak artistically. Eoger 
is not much of a reader ; at least, he doesn't care for poetry, and 



A VISIT TO THE IIAMLEYH. 03 

I books of romance, or Ronlimcnt. IIo is so fnnJ of natnml history ; 
ami that takes him, like the squire, a groat deal out of doore ; and 
wlicu lie is in, lio is always reading scientific books that hear upon 
' his jiursuits. He is a good, steady fi How, thougli, and gives us great 
Falisfaetion, but he is ilbt likely to have such a brilliant career as 
Osborne." 

Molly tiiod to find out in the i>i('tiire the characteristics of the 
two boys, as they wore now explained to her by their mother ; and 
in questions and answers about the various drawings hung round the 
room the iimo passed away until the drcssiug-bcU rang for the six 
o'clock dinner. 

]Molly was rather dismayed by tho offers of the maid whom Mrs. 
llaniley had sent to assist her, " I am afraid they expect me to be 
vory smart," she kojit thinking to herself. *' If they do, they'll be 
disappointed ; that's all. But I wish my plaid silk gown had been 
ready." 

She looked at herself in tho glass witli some anxiety, for tho first 
time in her life. She saw a slight, lean figure, promising to be tall; 
a complexion browner than cream-coloured, although in a year or two 
it might have that tint ; plentiful curly black hair, tied up in a bunch 
behind with a rose-coloured ribbon ; h)ng, almond-shaped, soft gray 
eyes, shaded both above and below by curling black eyelashes. 

" I don't think I am pretty," thought Molly, as she turned away 
from the glass; " and yet I am not sure." She would have been 
sure, if, instead of inspecting herself with such solemnity, she had 
smiled her o^vn sweet men-y smilo, and called out the gleam of her 
teeth, and the charm of her dimples. 

She found her way downstairs into the drawing-room in good 
time ; she could look about her, and learn how to feel at home in her 
new quarters. The room was forty-feet long or so, fitted up with 
yellow satin at some distant period ; high spindle-legged chairs and 
penibrokc-tables abounded. The carpet was of the same date as the 
curtains, and was thread-bare in many places ; and in others was 
covered with drugget. Stands of plants, great jars of flowers, old 
Indian china and cabinets gave the room the pleasant aspect it 
cei'tainly had. And to add to it, there were five high, long windows 
on one side of the room, all opening to the prettiest bit of flowcr- 
gai'dcn in the grounds — or what was considered as such — brilliant- 
coloured, geometrically-shaped beds, converging to a sun-dial in tho 
midst. The squire came in abx'uptly, and in his morning dress ; he 



64 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

stood at the door, as if sui-prised at the wliite-robed stranger iu 
possession of his hearth. Then, suddenly remembering himself, 
hut not before Molly had begun to feel very hot, he said — 

" Why, God bless my soul, I'd quite forgotten you ; you're Miss 
Gibson, Gibson's daughter, aren't you ? Come to pay us a visit ? 
I'm sure I'm very glad to see you, my dear." 

By this time, they had met in the middle of the room, and he 
was shaking Molly's hand with vehement friendliness, intended to 
mate up for his not knowing her at first. 

" I must go and dress, though," said he, looking at his soiled 
gaiters. " Madam likes it. It's one of her fine Loudon ways, and 
she's broken me into it at last. Veiy good plan, though, and quite 
right to make oneself fit for ladies' society. Does your father dress 
for dinner. Miss Gibson ? " He did not stay to wait for her answer, 
but hastened away to perform his toilette. 

They dined at a small table in a great large room. There were 
so few articles of furniture in it, and the apartment itself was so vast, 
that Molly longed for the suugness of the home dining-room ; nay, 
it is to be feared that, before the stately dinner at Hamley Hall came 
to an end, she even regretted the crowded chairs and tables, the 
huri'y of eating, the quick uuformal manner iu which everybody 
seemed to finish their meal as fast as possible, and to return to the 
work they had left. She tried to think that at six o'clock all the 
business of the day was eiided, and that people might linger if they 
chose. She measured the distance from the sideboard to the table with 
her eye, and made allowances for the men who had to carrj- things 
backwards and forwards ; but, all the same, this dinner appeared to 
her a wearisome business, prolonged because the squire liked it, for 
Mrs. Hamley seemed tired out. She ate even less than Molly, and 
sent for fan and smelling-bottle to amuse herself with, until at length 
the table-cloth was cleared away, and the dessert was put upon a 
mahogany table, polished like a looking-glass. 

The squire had hitherto been too busy to talk, except about the 
immediate concerns of the table, and one or two of the greatest 
breaks to the usual monotony of his days ; a monotony in which he 
delighted, but which sometimes became oppressive to his wife. Now, 
however, peeling his orange, he turned to Molly — 

" To-morrow, you'll have to do this for me, Miss Gibson." 

" Shall I ? I'll do it to-day, if you like, sir." 
" No ; to-day I shall treat you as a visitor, with all proper 



A VISIT TO TUE UAMLEY8. C.> 

ceremony. To-monow I shall send you errands, and call you by 
year Christian name." 

" I shall liko that," said Molly. 

" I was wanting to call you something less fonnal than Miss 
Gibson," Hui 1 Mrs. Ilamley. 

*' My name is Molly. It is an old-fashioned name, and I was 
christened Marj*. But papa likes Molly." 

" That's right. Keep to tho good old fashions, my dear." 

" Well, I must say I think Mary is prettier than Molly, and quito 
as old a name, too," said Mrs. Ilamley. 

*' I think it was," said Molly, lowering her voice, and dropping 
her eyes, '* because mamma was Muiy, and I was called ilolly while 
she lived." 

" Ah, poor thing," said the squire, not perceiving his wife's signs 
to change the subject, " I remember how sorry every one was when 
she died ; no one thought she was delicate, she had such a fresh 
colour, till all at once sho popped off, as one may say." 

" It must have been a terrible blow to your father," said Mrs. 
Hamley, seeing that Molly did not know what to answer, 

*' Ay, ay. It came so sudden, so soon after they were married." 

" I thought it was nearly four years," said Molly. 

" And four years is soon — is a short time to a couplo who look 
to spending their lifotinio together. Eveiy one thought Gibson 
would have married again." 

" Hush," said Mrs. Ilamley, seeing in Molly's eyes and change 
of colour how completely this was a new idea to her. But tho squire 
was not so easily stopped. 

" Well — I'd perhaps better not have said it, but it's the truth ; 
they did. He's not likely to marr}' now, so one may say it out. 
Why, your father is past forty, isn't he ? " 

" Forty-three. I don't believe ho ever thought of marrying 
again," said Molly, recurring to tho idea, as one does to that of 
danger which has passed by, without one's being aware of it. 

" No ! I don't believe ho did, my dear. Uo looks to me just 
liko a man who would be constant to the memory of his wife. You 
must not mind what the squire says." 

" Ah ! you'd better go away, if you're going to teach Miss 
3ibson such treason as that against the master of the bouse." 

Molly went into the drawing-room with Mrs. Hamley, but her 
houghts did not change with the room. Sho could not help dwelling 
Vol. I. 6 



66 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

on the danger -which she fancied she had escaped, and was astonished 
at her c^ti stupidity at never having imagined such a possibility as 
her father's second marriage. She felt that she was answering Mrs. 
Hamley's remarks in a very unsatisfactory manner. 

" There is papa, with the squire ! " she suddenly exclaimed. 
There they were coming across the flower-garden from the stable- 
yard, her father switching his boots with his riding whip, in order to 
make them presentable in Mrs. Hamley's drawing-room. He looked 
so exactly like his usual self, his home-self, that the seeing him in 
the flesh was the most efficacious way of dispelling the phantom fears 
of a second wedding, which were beginning to harass his daughter's 
mind ; and the pleasant conviction that he could not rest till he had 
come over to see how she was going on in her new home, stole into 
her heart, although he spoke but Httle to her, and that little was all 
in a joking tone. After he had gone away, the squire undertook to 
teach her cribbage, and she was happy enough now to give him all 
her attention. He kept on prattling while they played ; sometimes 
in relation to the cards ; at others telling her of small occurrences 
which he thought might interest her. 

" So you don't know; my boys, even by sight. I should have 
thought you would have done, for they're fond enough of riding into 
HoUingford ; and I know Koger has often enough been to borrow 
books from your father. Eoger is a scientific sort of a fellow. 
Osborne is clever, like his mother. I shouldn't wonder if he published 
a book some day. You're not counting right. Miss Gibson. "Why, 
I could cheat you as easily as possible." And so on, till the butler 
came in with a solemn look, placed a large prayer-book before his 
master, who huddled the cards away in a huriy, as if caught in an 
incongiTious employment ; and then the maids and men trooped in 
to prayers — the windows were still open, and the sounds of the 
solitary corncrake, and the owl hooting in the trees, mingling with 
the words spoken. Then to bed ; and so ended the day. 

Molly looked out of her chamber window— leaning on the sill, 
and snuffing up the night odours of the honeysuckle. The soft 
velvet darkness hid everything that was at any distance from her ; 
although she was as conscious of then- presence as if she had seen 
them. 

** I think I shall be very happy here," was in Molly's thoughts, 
as she turned away at length, and began to prepare for bed. Before 
long the squire's words, relating to her father's second marriage, 



A VISIT TO TUE UAMLEY8. 67 

came across her, aud spoilt the sweet poaco of her final thoaghts. 
" Who coulil ho hiivo ini\rrio(l '? " sho asked herself. " Miss Eyre ? 
Miss Browuin^ '? Miss Phceho '? Miss Goodonaugh \> " Ouo hy oao, 
each of these was rejected for sufficient reasons. Yet tho unsatisfied 
question rankled in her mind, and darted out of ambush to distuih 
her dreams. 

Mrs. Hamley did not como down to breakfast ; and Molly found 
out, with a little dismay, thut tho squire and she were to have it 
Ute-a-tet,-. On this first morning he put aside his newspapers — one 
an old established Tory journal, with all tho local and country news, 
which was the most interesting to him ; tho other tho Morning 
Chronicle, which ho ciUled his doso of bitters, aud which called out 
many a strong expression aud tolerably pungent oath. To-day, 
however, he was *' on his manners," as he afterwards explained to 
Molly ; and ho plunged about, trying to find ground for a conversa- 
tion. Ho could talk of his wife and his sous, his estate, aud his 
mode of fiu-ming ; his tenants, and the mismanagement of tho last 
county election. Molly's interests wore her father, Miss Eyre^ her 
garden aud pony ; in a fainter degree ]\Iis3 Brownings, the Cumnor 
Charity School, and the new gown that was to como from Miss 
Roso's ; into the midst of which the one gi'cat question, " Who was 
it that people thought it was possible papa might marry ? " kept 
popping up into her mouth, like a troublesome Jack-in-the-box. 
For the present, however, tho lid was snapped down upon the iu- 
trader as often as he showed his head bctwceu her toeth. They 
were ver}- polite to each other during tho meal ; and it was not a 
little tii'L'Some to both. When it was ended the squiro withdrew into 
his study to read the untasted newspapers. It was tho custom to 
call the room in which Squire Hamley kept his coats, boots, and 
gaiters, his difi'erent sticks and fiivourite spud, his gun and fishing- 
rods, " the study." There was a bureau in>it,- aud al tlu^e-comered 
arm-chair, but no hooks were visible. Tho greater part of them 
were kept in a large, musty-smelliug room, in an unfrequented part 
of the house ; so unfrequented that tho housemaid often neglected 
to open the window- shutters, which looked into a part of the grounds 
over-groAra with tho luxuriant growth of shrubs. Indeed, it was a 
tradition in the soiTauts' hall that, in the late squire's time — he who 
had been plucked at college — the library windows had been boarded 
up to avoid paying the window-tax. And when the " young gentle- 
men " were at home the housemaid, without a single direction to 

— 2 



68 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

that effect, was regular in her charge of this room ; ojjened the 
windows and lighted fires daily, and dusted the handsomely-bound 
volumes, which were really a very fair collection of the standard 
literature in the middle of the last century. All the books that had 
been purchased since that time were held in small book-cases be- 
tween each two of the drawing-room windows, and in Mrs. Hamley's 
own sitting-room upstairs. Those in the drawing-room were quite 
enough to employ Molly ; indeed she was so deep in one of Sir 
Walter Scott's novels that she jumped as if she had been shot, when 
an hour or so after breakfast the squire came to the gravel-path outside 
one of the windows, and called to ask her if she would like to come 
out of doors and go about the garden and home-fields with him. 

" It must be a little dull for you, my girl, all by yourself, with 
nothing but books to look at, in the mornings here ; but you see, 
madam has a fancy for being quiet in the mornings : she told your 
father about it, and so did I, but I felt soriy for you all the same, 
when I saw you sitting on the ground all alone in the drawing-room." 
Molly had been in the very middle of the Bride of Lammennoor, 
and would gladly have stayed in-doors to finish it, but she felt the 
squire's kindness all the same. They went in and out of old- 
fashioned green-houses, over trim lawns, the squire unlocked the 
great walled kitchen-garden, and went about giving du-ections to 
gardeners ; and all the time Molly followed him like a little dog, her 
mind quite full of " Ravenswood" and " Lucy Ashton." Presently, 
every place near the house had been inspected and regulated, and 
the squire was more at liberty to give his attention to his companion, 
as they passed through the little wood that separated the gardens 
from the adjoining fields. Molly, too, plucked away her thoughts 
from the seventeenth century ; and, somehow or other, that question, 
which had so haunted her before, came out of her lips before she was 
aware — a literal impromptu, — 

" Who did people think papa would marry ? That time — long 
ago — soon after mamma died ? " 

She dropped her voice very soft and low, as she spoke the last 
words. The squire turned round upon her, and looked at her face, 
he knew not why. It was very grave, a little pale, but her steady 
eyes almost commanded some kind of answer. 

" Whew," said he, whistling to gain time ; not that he had any- 
thing definite to say, for no one had ever had any reason to join 
Mr. Gibson's name with any known lady : it was only a loose con- 



A VISIT TO THE IIAMLEY8. 69 

jocturo that liatl boon Imzardod on tlio probabilities — a yoang 
wiilower, with a littlo girl. 

" I never heard of nuy one — his name was never coupled with 
any lady's — 'twas only iu the nataro of things that he should marry 
again ; ho may do it yet, for aught I know, and I don't think it 
would bo a bad move cither. I told him so, the last time but one 
he was here." 

" And what did he say ? " asked breathless Molly. 

" Oh : ho only smiled and said nothing. You shouldn't take up 
words so seriously, my dear. Tory likely ho may never think of 
marr}-ing again, and if he did, it would be a very good thing both 
for him and for you ! " 

Molly muttered something, as if to herself, but the squire might 
have heard it if ho had chosen. As it was, ho wisely turned the 
current of the conversation. 

" Look at that ! " ho said, as they suddenly came upon the mere, 
or large pond. There was a small island in the middle of the glassy 
water, on which grow tall trees, dark Scotch firs in the centre, 
silvery shimmering willows close to the water's edge. " We must get 
)"ou punted over there, some of these days. I'm not fond of using tho 
boat at this time of the year, because the young birds are still in tho 
nests among the reeds and water-plants ; but we'll go. There aro 
coots and gi'ebes." 

" Oh, look, there's a swan ! " 

" Yes ; there are two pair of them here. And in those trees 
there's both a rookery and a heronry ; the herons ought to be hero 
by now, for they're off to the sea in August, but I have not seen one 
yet. Stay ! is not that one — that fellow on a stone, with his long 
neck bent down, looking into tho water ? " 

" Yes ! I think so. I have never seen a heron, only pictures of 
them." 

" They and tho rooks aro always at war, which does not do for 
such near neighbours. If both herons leave the nest they are build- 
ing, the rooks come and tear it to pieces ; and onco Roger showed 
me a long straggling fellow of a heron, with a flight of rooks after 
him, with no friendly purpose in their minds. 111 be bound. Iloger 
knows a deal of natural history, and finds out queer things some- 
times. He'd have been off a dozen times during this walk of ours, 
if he'd been here : his eyes aro always wandering about, and see 
twenty things whero I only see one. Why ! I've known him bolt 



70 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

into a copse because he saw sometliing fifteen yards off — some plant, 
maybe, which he'd tell me was very rare, though I should say I'd 
seen its marrow at every turn in the woods ; and, if we came upon 
such a thing as this," touching a delicate film of a cobweb upon a 
leaf with his stick, as he spoke, " why, he could tell you what insect 
or spider made it, and if it lived in rotten fir- wood, or in a cranny of 
good sound timber, or deep down in the ground, or up in the sky, or 
anywhere. It's a pity they don't take honours in Natural History 
at Cambridge. Eoger would be safe enough if they did." 

" Mr. Osborne Hamley is very clever, is he not ? " Molly asked, 
timidly. 

" Oh, yes. Osborne's a bit of a genius. His mother looks for 
great things from Osbome. I'm rather proud of him myself. He'll 
get a Trinity fellowship, if they play him fair. As I was saying at 
the magistrates' meeting yesterday, ' I've got a son who will make a 
noise at Cambridge, or I'm veiy much mistaken.' Now, isn't it a 
queer quip of Nature," continued the squire, turning his honest face 
towards Molly, as if he was going to impart a new idea to her, 
"that I, a Hamley of Hamley, straight in descent from nobody 
knows where — the Heptarchy, they say — What's the date of the 
Heptarchy ? " 

" I don't know," said Molly, startled at being thus appealed to. 

*' Well ! it was some time before King Alfred, because he was 
the King of all Eugland, you know ; but, as I was saying, here am 
I, of as good and as old a descent as any man in England, and I 
doubt if a stranger, to look at me, would take me for a gentleman, 
with my red face, great hands and feet, and thick figure, fourteen 
stone, and never less than twelve even when I was a young man ; 
and there's Osborne, who takes after his mother, who couldn't tell 
her great-grandfather from Adam, bless her; and Osborne has a 
girl's delicate face, and a slight make, and hands and feet as small 
as a lady's. He takes after madam's side, who, as I said, can't tell 
who was their grandfather. Now, Koger is like me, a Hamley of 
Hamley, and no one who sees him in the street will ever think that 
red-brown, big-boned, clumsy chap is of gentle blood. Yet all those 
Cumnor people, you make such ado of in Holliugford, are mere 
muck of yesterday. I was talking to madam the other day about 
Osborne's marrying a daughter of Lord Hollingford's — that's to say, 
if he had a daughter — he's only got boys, as it happens ; but I'm 
not sure if I should consent to it. I really am not sure ; for you 



A VISIT TO THE UAMLEYS. 71 

SCO Osbonio will Imvo liml ft first-rato cilucfttion, ami liis family <latc9 
from the Uoptarchy, while I shouUl bo glad to know where tho 
Ciimuor folk wero in tho time of QuccuAuuo?" IIo walked on, 
pondering tho question of whether ho could have given his consent 
to this impossible marriago ; and after some time, and when Mi)lly 
had quite forgotten tho subject to which ho alluded, ho broke out 
with — " No ! I'm sure I should have looked higher. So, perhaps, 
it's as well my Lord llolliugford has only boj'S." 

After a while, ho thanked Molly for her companionship, with 
old-fashioned courtesy ; and told her that ho thought, by this time, 
madam would bo up and dressed, and glad to have her young visitor 
with her. Ho pointed out tho deep puq)lc house, with its stone 
facings, as it was seen at some distance between the trees, and 
watched her protectingly on her way along tho field-paths. 

"That's a nico girl of Gibson's," quoth ho to himself. "Bat 
what a tight hold the wench got of the notion of his marrj-ing again I 
One had need bo on one's guard as to what one says before her. 
To tliink of her never having thought of the chance of a stepmother. 
To bo sure, a stepmother to a girl is a different thing to a second 
wife to a man 1 " 



( 72 ) 



CHAPTER VII. 

FORESHADOWS OF LOVE PERILS. 

If Squire Hamley had been unable to tell Molly who had ever been 
thought of as her father's second wife, fate was all this time pre- 
paring an answer of a pretty positive kind to her wondering curiosity. 
But fate is a cunning hussy, and builds up her plans as impercep- 
tibly as a bird builds her nest ; and with much the same kind of 
unconsidered trifles. The first "trifle" of an event was the dis- 
turbance which Jenny (Mr. Gibson's cook) chose to make at Bethia's 
being dismissed. Bethia was a distant relation and protegee of 
Jenny's, and she chose to say it was Mr. Coxe the tempter who 
ought to have " been sent packing," not Bethia the tempted, the 
victim. In this view there was quite enough plausibility to make 
Mr. Gibson feel that he had been rather unjust. He had, however, 
taken care to provide Bethia with another situation, to the full as 
good as that which she held in his family. Jenny, nevertheless, 
chose to give warning ; and though Mr. Gibson knew full well from 
former experience that her warnings wei*e words, not deeds, he hated 
the discomfort, the uncertainty, — the entire disagreeableness of 
meeting a woman at any time in his house, who wore a grievance 
and an injury upon her face as legibly as Jenny took care to do. 

Down into the middle of this small domestic trouble came 
another, and one of greater consequence. Miss Eyre had gone with 
her old mother, and her orphan nephews and nieces, to the sea-side, 
during Molly's absence, which was only intended at first to last for a 
fortnight. After about ten days of this time had elapsed, Mr. Gibson 
received a beautifully written, beautifully worded, admirably folded, 
and most neatly sealed letter from Miss Eyre. Her eldest nephew 
had fallen ill of scarlet fever, and there was every probability that 
the younger children would be attacked by the same complaint. It 



F0UESUAD0W8 OF LOVE PEUILS. 73 

was ilislrossinp enough for poor Miss Eyre — this ftcMitioual expense, 
this rtiixioty — the long ilotoutiou from homo which the illness iuvolveJ. 
liut she Biiiil not a word of any inconvenience to herself; she only 
apologized with huniblo sincerity for her iniihility to return at the 
appointed time to her charge in Mr. Gibson's family ; meekly adding, 
that perhaps it was as well, for Molly had never had tho scarlet 
fcvor, and even if IMiss Kyro had been able to leave tho oqihau 
children to retuni to her employments, it might not have been a safe 
or a pmdent step. 

" To bo sure not," said Jlr. Gibson, tearing the letter in two, 
and throwing it into tho hearth, where ho soon saw it bunit to ashes. 
'' I wish I'd a five-pound house and not a woman within ten miles of 
me. I might have some peace then." Apparently, ho forgot Mr. 
Coxo's powers of making mischief; but indeed he might have traced 
that evil back to tho unconscious Molly. The martyr-cook's entrance 
to take away tho breakfast things, which she announced by a heavy 
sigh, roused Mr. Gibson from thought to action. 

'* Molly must stay a little longer at Hamley," he resolved. 
" They've often asked for her, and now they'll have enough of her, 
I think. But I can't have her back here just yet ; and so the best I 
can do for her is to leave her where she is. Mrs. Hamley seems 
very fond of her, and the child is looking happy, and stronger in 
health, I'll ride round by Hamley to-day at any rate, and see how 
I the land lies." 

He found Mrs. Hamley lying on a sofa placed under the shadow of 
the gi-cat cedar-tree on the lawn. Molly was flitting about her, gar- 
idening away under her directions ; tying up the long sea-green 
stalks of bright budded carnations, snipping otf dead roses. 

"Oh! here's papa!" she cried out, joyfully, as he rode up to 
the white paling which separated the trim [h\vra and trimmer flower- 
garden from the rough park-like ground in front of the house. 

" Come in — come here — through tho drawing-room window," 
said Mrs. Hamley, raising herself on her elbow. " We've got a 
rose-tree to show you that Molly has budded all by herself. "We are 
both so proud of it." 

So Mr. Gibson rode round to the stables, left his horse there, 
and made his way through the house to the open-air summer-parlour 
under tho cedar-tree, wl^ere there were chaii*s, table, books, and 
tangled work. Somehow, ho rather disliked asking for Molly to 
prolong her visit ; so he determined to swallow his bitter first, and 



74 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

then take the pleasure of the delicious day, the sweet repose, the 
murmurous, scented air. Molly stood by him, her hand on his 
shoulder. He sate opposite to Mrs. Hamley. 

" I've come here to-day to ask for a favour," he began. 

*' Granted before you name it. Am not I a bold woman ? " 

He smiled and bowed, but went straight on with his speech. 

" Miss Eyre, who has been Molly's governess, I suppose I must 
call her — for many years, writes to-day to say that one of the little 
nephews she took with her to Newport while Molly was staying here, 
has caught the scarlet fever." 

" I guess your request. I make it before you do. I beg for 
dear little Molly to stay on here. Of com-se Miss Eyre can't come 
back to you ; and of course Molly must stay here ! " 

" Thank you ; thank you very much. That was my request." 

Molly's hand stole down to his, and nestled in that firm compact 
grasp. 

•' Papa ! — Mrs. Hamley ! — I know you'll both understand me — 
but mayn't I go home ? I am very happy here ; but — oh papa ! I 
think I should like to be at home with you best." 

An uncomfortable suspicion flashed across his mind. Ho pulled 
her round, and looked straight and piercingly into her innocent face. 
Her colour came at his unwonted scrutiny, but her sweet eyes were 
filled with wonder, rather than with any feeling which he dreaded to 
find. For 'an instant he had doubted whether young red-headed 
Mr. Cose's love might not have called out a response in his 
daughter's breast ; but he was quite clear now. 

" Molly, you're rude to begin with. I don't know how you're to 
make your peace with Mrs. Hamley, I'm sure. And in the next 
place, do you think you're wiser than I am ; or that I don't want 
you at home, if all other things were conformable ? Stay where you 
are, and be thankful." 

Molly knew him well enough to be certain that the prolongation 
of her visit at Hamley was quite a decided affixii* in his mind ; and 
then she was smitten with a sense of ingratitude. She left her 
father, and went to Mrs. Hamley, and bent over her and kissed her ; 
but she did not speak. Mrs. Hamley took hold of her hand, and 
made room on the sofa for her. 

" I was going to have asked for a longer visit the nest time you 
came, Mr. Gibson. We are such happy friends, are not we, Molly ? 
and now, that this good little nephew of Miss Ej^e's " 



rOIlEBHADOWS OF LOVE PEEILS. 75 

" I ^isb he was whipped," said llr, Gibson. 

" — hap ^von us 8uch u capitnl reason, I shall keep Molly for a 
real loug visitatiou. You must come over aud see us vciy often. 
There's a room hero for you always, you know ; and I don't see why 
you should uot start on your rounds from Ilamlcy cvcrj- moniing, 
just as well as from Hollingford." 

" Thank you. If you hadn't been so kind to my little girl, I 
might bo tempted to say something mdo in answer to your last 
speech." 

" Pray say it. You won't bo easy till you have given it out, 
I know." 

" Mrs. Hamley has found out from whom I get my nideness," 
said Molly, triumphantly. " It's an hereditary qnaUty." 

'•■ I was going to say that proposal of yours that I should sleep at 

Hamley was just like a woman's idea — all kindness, and no common 

sense. How in the world would my patients find me out, seven 

• mUes from my accustomed place ? They'd be sure to send for some 

' other doctor, and I should be ruined in a month." 

** Could not they send on here ? A messenger costs verj* little." 

" Fancy old Goody Hcnbury straggling up to my surgery, 
groaning at everj' step, and then being told to just step on seven 
miles fartlicr ! Or take the other end of society : — I don't think my 
Lady Cumnor's smart groom would thank me for having to ride on 
to Hamley evciy time his mistress wants me."' 

" Well, well, I submit. I am a woman. Molly, thon art a 
woman ! Go and order some strawben-ies aud cream for this father 
of yours. Such humble offices fall within the province of women. 
Btrawberries and cream arc all kindness and no common sense, for 
they'll give him a horrid fit of indigestion." 

" Please speak for yourself, Mrs. Hamley," said Mollv. men-ily. 
" I ate — oh, such a great basketful yesterday, and the squire went 
himself to the dairy and brought out a great bowl of cream, when he 
found me at my busy work. And I'm as well as ever I was, to-day, 
and never had n touch of indigestion near me." 

" She's a good girl," said her father, when she had danced out 
of hearing. The words were not quite an inquiry, ho was so certain 
of his answer. There was a mixture of teudcniess and trast in his 
eyes, as he awaited the reply, which came in a moment. 

" She's a darling. I cannot tell you how fond the squire and I 
are of her ; both of us. I am so delighted to think she is not to go 



76 WIVES AND DAUGHTEllS. 

away for a long time. The first thing I thought of this nioming 
when I wakened up, was that she would soon have to return to you, 
unless I could jjersuade you into leaving her with me a little longer. 
And now she must stay — oh, two months at least." 

It was quite true that the squire had become vei-y fond of Molly. 
The chance of having a young girl dancing and singing inarticulate 
ditties about the house and garden, was indescribable in its novelty 
to him. And then Molly was so willing and so wise ; ready both to 
talk and to listen at the right times. Mrs. Hamley was quite right 
in speaking of her husband's fondness for Molly. But either she 
herself chose a wrong time for telling him of the prolongation of the 
girl's visit, or one of the fits of temper to which he was liable, but 
which he generally strove to check in the presence of his wife, was 
upon him ; at any rate, he received the news in anything but a 
gracious frame of mind. 

" Stay longer ! Did Gibson ask for it ? " 

" Yes ! I don't see what else is to become of her ; Miss Eyre 
away and all. It's a very awkward position for a motherless girl 
like her to be at the head of a household with two young men in it." 

" That's Gibson's look-out ; he should have thought of it before 
taking pupils, or apprentices, or whatever he calls them." 

" My dear squire ! why, I thought you'd be as glad as I was — as 
I am to keep Molly. I asked her to stay for an indefinite time ; two 
months at least." 

" And to be in the house with Osborne ! Roger, too, will be at 
home." 

By the cloud in the squire's eyes, Mrs. Hamley read his mind. 

" Oh, she's not at all the sort of girl young men of their age 
would take to. We like her because we see what she really is ; but 
lads of one and two and twenty want all the accessories of a young 
woman." 

" Want what ? " growled the squire. 

" Such things as becoming dress, style of manner. They would 
not at their age even see that she is pretty ; their ideas of beauty 
would include colour." 

" I suppose all that's very clever ; but I don't understand it. 
All I know is, that it's a very dangerous thing to shut two young 
men of one and three and twenty up in a country-house like this 
with a girl of seventeen — choose what her gowns may be like, or her 
hair, or her eyes. And I told you particularly I didn't want Osborne, 



FORESUAUOWH OF LOVE PERILS. 77 

or cither of iliom, indeed, to bo falling in lovo with her. I'm very 
much anuovcd." 

Mrs. Ilttinlcy's fiico fell ; she became a little pale. 

" Shall wo make arrauj^eincnts for thuir stopping away while she 
id hero ; staying up at Caiubritlgo, or reading with somo one ? going 
abroad for a month or two ? " 

" No ; you've been reckoning this ever so long on their coming 
home. I've seen the marks of the weeks on your almanack. I'd 
sooner speak to Gibson, and tell him ho must tako his daughter 
away, for it's not convenient to us " 

" ^ly dear Roger ! I beg you will do no such thing. It will bo 
BO unkind ; it will give the lie to all I said yesterday. Don't, please, 
do that. For my sake, don't speak to Mr. Gibson ! " 

" Well, well, don't put yourself in a flutter," for he was afraid 
of her becoming hysterical; " I'll speak to Osborne when ho comes 
home, and tell him how much I should dislike anything of the kind." 

" And Roger is always far too full of his natural history and 
comparative anatomy, and messes of that sort, to be thinking of fall- 
ing in love with Venus herself. He has not the sentiment and 
imagination of Osborne." 

•'Ah, you don't know; you never can be sure about a young 
man ! But with Roger it wouldn't so much signify. Ho would 
know he couldn't many for years to come." 

All that afternoon the squire tried to steer clear of Jlolly, to 
whom he felt himself to have been an inhospitable traitor. But she 
was so perfectly unconscious of his shyness of her, and so merrj' and 
sweet in her behaviour as a welcome guest, never distrusting him for 
a moment, however gruff he might be, that by the next morning she 
bad completely won him round, and they were quite on the old terms 
again. At breakfast this very morning, a letter was passed from the 
squire to his ^^■ife, and back again, without a word as to its contents; 
but— 

" Fortunate ! " 

"Yes ! very ! " 

Little did Molly apply these expressions to the piece of news 
Mrs. Hamley told her in the course of the day ; namely, that her 
son OsboiTio had received an invitation to stay with a friend in the 
neighbourhood of Cambridge, and perhaps to make a tour on the 
Continent with him subsequently ; and that, consequently, he would 
not accompany his brother when Roger came home. 



73 WIVES AND .DAUGHTERS. 

Molly was very sympathetic. 

" Oil, dear ! I am so sorry ! " 

Mrs. Hamley was thankful her husband was not present, Molly 
spoke the words so heartily. 

" You have been thinking so long of his coming home. I am 
afraid it is a great disappointment." 

Mrs. Hamley smiled — reheved. 

"Yes! it is a disappointment certainly, but we must think of 
Osborne's pleasure. And with his poetical mind, he will wiite us 
such delightful travelling letters. Poor fellow ! he must be going 
into the examination to-day ! Both his father and I feel sure, 
though, that he will be a high wrangler. Only — I should like to 
have seen him, my own dear boy. But it is best as it is." 

Molly was a little puzzled by this speech, but soon put it out of 
her head. It was a disappointment to her, too, that she should not 
see this beautiful, brilliant young man, his mother's hero. From 
time to time her maiden fancy had dwelt upon what he would be 
like ; how the lovely boy of the picture in Mrs. Hamley's di'essing- 
room would have changed in the ten years that had elapsed since 
the likeness was taken ; if he would read poetry aloud ; if he would 
ever read his own poetiy. However, in the never-ending feminine 
business of the day, she soon forgot her own disappointment ; it 
only came back to her on first wakening the next morning, as a vague 
something that was not quite so pleasant as she had anticipated, 
and then was banished as a subject of regret. Her days at Hamley 
were well filled up with the small duties that would have belonged to 
a daughter of the house had there been one. She made bi'eakfast 
for the lonely squire, and would willingly have carried up madame's, 
but that daily piece of work belonged to the squire, and was jealously 
guarded by him. She read the smaller print of the newspapers 
aloud to him, city articles, money and corn markets included. She 
strolled about the gardens with him, gathering fresh flowers, mean- 
while, to deck the drawing-room against Mrs. Hamley should come 
down. She was her companion when she took her drives in the 
close carriage ; they read poetry and mild literature together in 
Mrs. Hamley's sitting-room upstairs. She was quite clever at crib- 
bage now, and could beat the squire if she took pains. Besides 
these things, there were her own independent ways of employing 
herself. She used to try to practise a daily hour on the old grand 
piano in the solitary drawing-room, because sho had promised Miss 



FORESIIADOWS OF LOVE TEEILS. 79 

EjTO sho would ilo 80. And she had found her way into the library, 
and used to undo the heavy bars of the shutters if tbo housemaid 
had fdij^'otteu this duty, and mount tho ladder, sitting ou the steps, 
for an hour at a time, deep iu some book of tho old English classics. 
Tho summer days were very short to this happy girl of seveutcen. 



( 80 ) 



CHAPTER VIII. 

DRIFTING ;iNTO DANGER. 

On Thursday, the quiet country household was stirred through all its 
fibres with the thought of Roger's coming home. Mrs. Hamley had 
not seemed quite so well, or quite in such good spirits for two or 
three days before ; and the squire himself had appeared to be put 
out without any visible cause. They had not chosen to tell Molly 
that Osborne's name had only appeared veiy low down in the mathe- ' 
matical tripos. So all that their visitor knew was that something 
was out of tune, and she hoped that Roger's coming home would 
set it to rights, for it was beyond the power of her small cares and 
wiles. 

On Thursday, the housemaid apologized to her for some slight 
negligence in her bedroom, by saying she had been busy scouring 
Mr. Roger's rooms. " Not but what they were as clean as could be 
beforehand ; but mistress would always have the young gentlemen's 
rooms cleaned afresh before they came home. If it had been 
Mr. Osborne, the whole house would have had to be done ; but to 
be sure he was the eldest son, so it was but likely." Molly was 
amused at this testimony to the rights of heirship ; but somehow she 
herself had fallen into the family manner of thinking that nothing was 
too great or too good for *' the eldest son." In his father's eyes, 
Osborne was the representative of the ancient house of Hamley of 
Hamley, the future owner of the land which had been theirs for a 
thousand j^ears. His mother clung to him because they two were 
cast in the same mould, both physically and mentally — because he 
bore her maiden name. She had indoctrinated Molly with her faith, 
and, in spite of her amusement at the housemaid's speech, the girl 
visitor would have been as anxious as any one to show her feudal 
loyalty to the heir, if indeed it had been he that was coming. After 



DUimXO INTO D.VXGKR. 81 

luncheon, Mrs. Ilamk'y went to lost, in preparation for Rogcr'H 
return ; ftnil Molly also retired to her own room, feeling that it 
would Lo better for hor to remain there until dinncr-tinio, and so to 
K-avo tlu> fiithor and nu)tlicr to rcccivo their boy in privacy. She 
took n book of MS. poems with her ; they wore all of Osbomo 
Ilamloy's composition ; and his mother had read some of them aloud 
to her youuf^ visitor nu)re than once. Molly had asked permission 
to copy one or two of those which were her greatest favourites ; and 
this quiet summer afternoon she took this copying for her employ- 
ment, sittinj,' at the pleasant open window, and losing herself in 
dreamy out-looks into the gardens and woods, quivering in the noon- 
tide heat. The house was so still, in its silence it might have been 
the " moated grange ; " tho bomming buzz of the blue flies, in tho 
great staircase window, seemed the loudest noiso in- doors. And 
there was scarcely a sound out-of-doors but the humming of bees, in 
the flower-beds below the window. Distant voices from tho far-away 
fields where they were making hay — the scent of which came in 
sudden wafts distinct from that of tho nearer roses and honeysuckles 
— these merry piping voices just made Molly feel the depth of tho 
present silence. She had left off copying, her hand weary with tho 
unusual exertion of so much writing, and she was lazily trying to 
leai'u one or two of the poems off" by heart. 

I asked of the wind, hut answer made it none, 
Save its accustomed sad and solitary moan — 

she kept saying to herself, losing her sense of whatever meaning tho 
words had ever had, in tho repetition which had become mechanical. 
Suddenly there was the snap of a shutting gate ; wheels crackling on 
tho dry gravel, horses' feet on the drive ; a loud cheerful voice in tho 
house, coming up through tho open wmdows, tho hall, tho passages, 
tho staircase, with unwonted fulness and roundness of tone. Tho 
oiitrancc-hall downstairs was paved with diamonds of black and white 
marble ; the low wide staircase that went in short flights around tho 
hall, till you could look dovra upon the marble floor from tho top 
stor}- of the house, was uncaqietcd — uncovered. The squire was 
too proud of his beautifully -joined oaken flooring to cover this stair- 
case up unnecessarily ; not to say a word of tho usual state of want 
of ready money to expend upon tho decorations of his house. So, 
through the uudraporied hollow square of tho hall and staircase 
every sound ascended clear and distinct; and Molly heard tho 
squire's glad " Hallo ! hero ho is," and madamc's softer, more 
Vol. I. G 



82 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

plaintive voice ; and then the loud, full, strange tone, whicli 'slie 
knew must be Roger's. Then there was an opening and shutting of 
doors, and only a distant buzz of talking. Molly began again — 
I asked of the wind, but answer made it none. 

And this time she had nearly finished learning the poem, when she 
heard Mrs. Hamley come hastily into her sitting-room that adjoined 
Molly's bedroom, and burst out into an irrepressible half-hysterical 
fit of sobbing. Molly was too young to have any complication of 
motives vrhich should prevent her going at once to try and give what 
comfort she could. In an instant she vras kneeling at Mrs. Hamley's 
feet, holding the poor lady's hands, kissing them, murmuring soft 
words ; vrhich, all unmeaning as they were of aught but sympathy 
with the untold grief, did Mrs. Hamley good. She checked herself, 
smiling sadly at Molly through the midst of her thick-coming sobs. 

" It's only Osborne," said she, at last. " Eoger has been telling 
us about him." 

" What about him ? " asked Molly, eagerly. 
" I knew on Monday ; we had a letter — he said he had not done 
so well as we had hoped — as he had hoped himself, poor fellow ! He 
said he had just passed, but was only low down among the junior 
optimcs, and not where he had expected, and had led us to expect. 
But the squire has never been at college, and does not understand 
college terms, and he has been asking Eoger all about it, and Roger 
has been telling him, and it has made him so angry. But the squire 
hates college slang ; — he has never been there, you know ; and he 
thought poor Osborne was taking it too lightly, and he has been 

asking Roger about it, and Roger " 

There was a fresh fit of the sobbing crying. Molly burst out, — 
" I don't think Mr. Roger should have told ; he had no need to 
begin so soon about his brother's failure. Why, he hasn't been in 
the house an hour ! " 

" Hush, hush, love ! " said Mrs. Hamley. " Roger is so good. 
You don't understand. The squire would begin and ask questions 
before Roger had tasted food — as soon as ever we had got into the 
dining-room. And all he said — to me, at any rate — was that 
Osborne was nervous, and that if he could only have gone in for the 
Chancellor's medals, he would have carried all before him. But Roger 
said that after failing like this, ho is not very likely to get a fellow- 
ship, which the squire had placed his hopes on. Osborne himself 
seemed so sure of it, that the squire can't understand it, and is 



DRIFTING INTO DANUEU. 88 

Bcriouslv angry, and growing moro so tho more he talks about it. 
IIo has kept it in two or tbrco days, and that never suits him. Ho 
is always better when ho is aiigrj- about a thing at once, and does not 
let it smoulder in his mind. Poor, poor Osborne ! I did wish ho had 
boon coming straight homo, instead of going to these friends of his ; 
I thought I could havo comforted him. But now I'm glad, for it will 
bo better to let his father's anger cool first." 

So talking out what was in her heart, 'Mm. Haralcy became moro 
composed ; and at length she dismissed Molly to dress for dinner, 
with a kiss, sa}'iug, — 

" You're a real blessing to mothers, child ! You givo one such 
pleasant spnpathy, both in one's gladness and in one's sorrow ; in 
one's pride (for I was so proud last week, so confident), and in one's 
disappointment. And now your being a fourth at dinner will keep us 
ofl' that sore subject ; there arc times when a stranger in tho house- 
hold is a wonderful help." 

IMolly thought over all that she had heard, as she was dressing 
and putting on tho terrible, over- smart plaid gown in honour of the 
new arrival. Her unconscious fealty to Osborne was not in the least 
shaken by his having come to grief at Cambridge. Only she was 
indignant — with or without reason — against Roger, who seemed to 
have brought the reality of bad news as an ofiering of fii-st-fruits on 
his return home. 

She went down into the drawing-room with anything but a 
welcome to him in her heart. He was standing by his mother ; tho 
squire had not yet made his appearance. Molly thought that the two 
were hand in hand when she first opened the door, but she could not 
bo quite sure. Mrs. Hamley came a little forwards to meet her, and 
introduced her in so fondly intimate a way to her son, that Molly, 
innocent and simple, knowing nothing but Hollingford manners, 
which woro anything but formal, half put out her hand to shake 
hands with one of whom she had heard fo much — tho son of such 
kind friends. She could only hope he had not seen the movement, 
for he made no attempt to respond to it ; only bowed. 

Ho was a tall powerfully- made young man, giving the impression 
of strength more than elegance. His fixco was rather square, ruddy- 
coloured (as his father had said), hair and eyes brown — the latter 
rather dccp-sct beneath his thick eyebrows ; and ho had a trick of 
wrinkling up his eyelids when ho wanted particularly to observe any- 
thing, which made his eyes look even smaller still at such times. He 

G— 2 



84 WIVES AND DAU.GHTERS. 

had a large mouth, with excessively mobile lips ; ami another trick of 
his was, that when he was amused at anything, he resisted the 
impulse to laugh, by a droll manner of twitching and puckering up 
his mouth, till at length the sense of humour had its way, and his 
features relaxed, and he broke into a broad sunny smile ; his beautiful 
teeth — his only beautiful feature — breaking out with a white gleam 
upon the red-brown countenance. These two tricks of his — of 
crumpling up the eyelids, so as to concentrate the power of sight, 
which made him look stem and thoughtful ; and the odd twitching of 
the lips that was preliminary to a smile, which made him look 
intensely merr}- — gave the varying expressions of his face a greater 
range " from grave to gay, from lively to severe," than is common to 
most men. To Molly, who was not finely discriminative in her 
glances at the stranger this first night, he simply appeared " heavy- 
looking, clumsy," and " a person she was sure she should never get 
on with." He certainly did not seem to care much what impression 
he made upon his mother's visitor. He was at that age when young 
men admire a formed beauty more than a face with any amount of 
future capability of loveliness, and when thej" are morbidlj- conscious 
of the difficulty of finding subjects of conversation in talking to 
girls in a state of feminine hobbledehoyhood. Besides, his thoughts 
were full of other subjects, which he did not intend to allow to ooze 
out in words, yet he wanted to prevent any of that heavy silence 
which he feared might be impending — with an angry and displeased 
father, and a timorous and distressed mother. He only looked upon 
Molly as a badly-dressed, and rather awkward girl, with black hair 
and an intelligent face, who might help him in the task he had set 
himself of keeping up a bright general conversation during the rest 
of the evening ; might help him — if she would, but she would not. 
She thought him unfeeling in his talkativeness ; his constant flow of 
words upon indifferent subjects was a wonder and a repulsion to her. 
How could he go on so cheerfully while his mother sat there, scarcely 
eating anything, and doing her best, with ill-success, to swallow down 
the tears that would keep rising to her eyes ; when his father's hea\y 
brow was deeply clouded, and he evidently cared nothing — at first at 
least— for all the chatter his son poured forth ? Had Mr. Roger 
Haniley no sympathy in him ? She would show that she had some, 
at any rate. So she quite declined the part, which he had hoped 
she would have taken, of respondent, and possible questioner ; and 
his work became more and more like that of a man walking in a 



DniFTINO INTO DANGER. 85 

qnftf^mirc. Onco the squiro ronsoj himself to speak to the hutlcr ; 
he fi'lt the nceil of otitwaid stimulus — of a hotter vintago than usual. 

*' Bring up a bottlo of the Burgundy with the yellow seal." 

IIo spoke low ; he had no spirit to speak in hia usual voice. The 
butler answered in tlio samo tonr?. Molly sitting n.\ir them, and 
fiilent herself, hoard what they said. 

" If you please, sir, there arc not above six bottles of that seal 
left; and it is Mr. Osborne's favourite wine." 

The squiro turned round with a growl in his voice. 

"Bring up a bottle of the liurgundy with the yellow seal, as 
I said." 

The butler went away wonderin,;^. " Mr. Osborne's " likes and 
dislikes had been the law of the house in general until now. If ho 
had liked any particular food or drink, any seat or place, any special 
degree of warmth or coolness, his wishes were to bo attended to ; for 
he was the heir, and ho was delicate, and he was the clover one of 
tho family. All the out-of-doors men would have said the same. 
!Mr. OsboiTie wished a tree cut down, or kept standing, or had such- 
and-such a fancy about the game, or desired something unusual 
about the horses ; and they had all to attend to it as if it wore law. 
But to-day the Burgundy with the yellow scjjl was to be brought ; 
and it was brought. Molly testified with quiet vehemence of action ; 
she never took wine, so she need not have been afraid of tho man's 
pouring it into her glass ; but as an open mark of fealty to the 
absent Osborne, however Uttle it might be understood, she placed the 
palm of her small brown hand over the top of the glass, and held it 
there, till the wine had gone round, and Roger and his father were 
in full enjoyment of it. 

After dinner, too, the gentlemen lingered long over their dessei-t, 
and !Molly heard them laugliiug ; and then she saw them loitering 
about in the twilight out-of-doors ; Roger hatless, his hands in his 
pockets, lounging by his father's side, who was now able to talk in 
his usual loud and cheerful way, forgetting Osborne. Vtc rictis ! 

And so in mute opposition on Molly's side, in polite indifference, 
scarcely verging upon kindliness on his, Roger and she steered clear 
of each other. He had many occupations in which he needed no 
companionship, oven if she had been qualified to give it. The worst 
was, that she found he was in the habit of occupying the libnm-, her 
favourite retreat, in the mornings before ^frs. Hamley came down. 
She opened the half-closed door a day or two after his return heme, 



86 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

and found him busy among books and papers, with v/bicli tbe large 
leather-covered table was strewn ; and she softly withdrew before he 
could turn his head and see her, so as to distinguish her from one of 
the housemaids. He rode out every day, sometimes with his father 
about the outlying fields, sometimes far away for a good gallop. 
Molly would have enjoyed accompanying him on these occasions, for 
she was very fond of riding ; and there had been some talk of sending 
for her habit and grey pony when first she came to Hamley ; only 
the squire, after some consideration, had said he so rarely did more 
than go slowly from one field to another, where his labourers were at 
work, that he feared she would find such slow work — ten minutes 
riding through heavy land, twenty minutes sitting still on horseback, 
listening to the directions he should have to give to his men — rather 
dull. Now, when if she had had her pony here she might have ridden 
out with Eoger, without giving him any trouble — she would have 
taken care of that — nobody seemed to think of renewing the proposal. 

Altogether it was pleasanter before he came home. 

Her father came over pretty frequently ; sometimes there were long 
unaccountable absences, it was true ; when his daughter began to 
fidget after him, and to wonder what had become of him. But when 
he made his appearanpe he had always good reasons to give ; and the 
right she felt that she had to his familiar household tenderness ; 
the power she possessed of fully understanding the exact value of 
both his words and his silence, made these glimpses of intercourse 
with him inexpressibly charming. Latterly her burden had always 
been, "When may I come home, papa?" It v/as not that she 
was unhappy, or uncomfortable ; she was passionately fond of Mrs. 
Hamley, she was a favourite of the squire's, and could not as yet 
fully understand why some people were so much afraid of him ; and 
as for Eoger, if he did not add to her pleasure, he scarcely took 
away from it. But she wanted to be at home once more. The 
reason why she could not tell ; but this she knew full well. Mr. 
Gibson reasoned with her till she was weary of being completely 
convinced that it was right and necessary for her to stay where she 
was. And then with an effort she stopped the C17 upon her tongue, 
for she saw that its repetition harassed her father. 

During this absence of hers Mr. Gibson vras drifting into matri- 
mony. He was partly aware of whither he was going ; and partly it 
was like the soft floating movement of a dream. He was more 
passive than active in the affair ; though, if his reason had not fully 



DRIFTING INTO DANGER. 87 

approved of the step lie was tencliug to — if he liad not believed that 
a second marriage was the very best way of cutting the Gordiau knot 
of domestic difficulties, he could have made an effort without any 
great trouble, and extricated himself without pain from the mesh of 
circumstances. It happened in this manner : — 

Lady Cuninor having married her two eldest daughters, found 
her labours as a chaperone to Lady Harriet, the youngest, con- 
siderably lightened by co-operation ; and, at length, she had leisure 
to be an invalid. She was, however, too energetic to allov/ herself 
this indulgence constantly ; only she permitted herself to break down 
occasionally after a long course of dinners, late hours, and Loudon 
atmosphere : and then, leaving Lady Harriet with either Lady 
Cushaven or Lady Agnes IManners, she betook herself to the com- 
parative quiet of the Towers, where she found occupation in doing 
her benevolence, which was sadly neglected in the hurly-burly of 
London. This particular summer she had broken down earlier than 
usual, and longed for the repose of the country. She believed that 
her state of health, too, v/as more serious than previously ; but she 
did not say a word of this to her husband or daughters ; reserving 
her confidence for Mr. Gibson's ears. She did not wish to take Lady 
Harriet away from the gaieties of town which she was thoroughly 
•enjoying, by any complaint of hers, which might, after all, ba 
ill-founded ; and yet she did not quite like being without a com- 
panion in the three weeks or a month that might intervene before' 
her family would join her at the Towers, especially as the annual 
festivity to the school visitors was impending ; and both the school 
and the visit of the ladies connected with it, had rather lost the zest 
of novelty. 

" Thursday the 19th, Harriet," said Lady Cumnor, medita- 
tively ; " what do you say to coming down to the Towers on the 
18th, and helping me over that long day ; ycu could stay m the 
country till Monday, and have a few days' rest and good air ; you 
would return a great deal fi.-esher to the remainder of your gaieties. 
Your father would bring you down, I know : indeed, he is coming 
naturally." 

" Oh, mamma ! " said Lady Harriet, the youngest daughter of 
the house — the prettiest, the most indulged; " I cannot go ; there 
is the water-party up to Maidenhead on the 20th, I should be so 
■Sony to miss it : and Mrs. Duncan's ball, and Grisi's concert ; 
2)lease, don't want me. Besides, I should do no good. I can't 



88 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

make provincial small-talk ; I'm not up iu the local politics of 
Hollingford. I should he making mischief, I know I should." 

" Very well, my dear," said Lady Cumnor, sighing, " I had for- 
gotten the Maidenhead water-party, or I would not have asked you." 

" What a pity it isn't the Eton holidays, so that you could have 
had Hollingford's boys to help you to do the honours, mamma. 
They are such aifahle little prigs. It was the greatest fun to watch 
them last year at Sir Edward's, doing the honours of their grand- 
father's house to much such a collection of humble admirers as you 
get together at the Towers. I shall never forget seeing Edgar 
gravely squiring about an old lady iu a portentous black bonnet, and 
giving her information in the correctest grammar possible." 

" Well, I Hke those lads," said Lady Cuxhaven ; " they are on 
the way to become true gentlemen. But, mamma, why shouldn't 
you have Clare to stay with you ? You like her, and she is just the 
person to save you the troubles of hospitality to the Hollingford 
people, and we should all be so much more comfortable if we knew 
you had her with you." 

" Yes, Clare would do very well," said Lady Cumnor ; " but 
isn't it her school-time or something ? We must not interfere with 
her school so as to injure her, for I am afraid she is not doing too 
well as it is ; and she has been so very unlucky ever since she left us 
— first her husband died, and then she lost Lady Davies' situation, 
and then Mrs. Maude's, and now Mr. Preston told your father it was 
all she could do to pay her way in Ashcombc, though Lord Cumnor 
lets her have the house rent-free." 

" I can't think how it is," said Lady Harriet. " She's not very 
wise, certainly ; but she is so useful and agreeable, and has such 
pleasant manners. I should have thought any one who wasn't par- 
ticular about education would have been channed to keep her as a 
governess." 

" What do you mean by not being particular about education ? 
Most people who keep governesses for their children are supposed to 
be particular," said Lady Cuxhaven. 

" Well, they think themselves so, I've no doubt ; but I call you 
particular, Mary, and I don't think mamma was ; but she thought 
herself so, I am sure." 

" I can't think what you mean, Harriet," said Lady Cumnor, a 
good deal annoyed at this speech of her clever, heedless, youngest 
daughter. 



DRIi'TING INTO DANGER. 89 

" Oil dear, mamma, you did everything you could think of for 
us ; but you see you'd ever so many other engrossing interests, and 
Maiy hardly allows her love for her husband to interfere with her 
all-absorbing care for the children. You gave us the best of masters 
in every department, and Clare to dragonize and keep us up to our 
preparation for them, as well as ever she could ; but then you know, 
or rather j'ou didn't know, some of the masters admired our very 
pretty governess, and there was a kind of respectable veiled flirtation 
going on, which never came to anything, to be sure ; and then you 
were often so overwhelmed with your business as a groat lady — 
fashionable and benevolent, and all that sort of thing — that you used 
to call Clare away from us at the most critical times of our lessons, 
to write your notes, or add up your accounts, and the consequence is, 
that I'm about the most ill-informed girl in London. Only IMary was 
so capitally trained by good awkward Miss Benson, that she is 
always full to overflowing with accurate knowledge, and her glory is 
reflected upon me." 

" Do you think what Harriet says is true, Mary?" asked Lady 
Cumnor, rather anxiously. 

" I was so little with Clare in the school-room. I used to read 
French with her ; she had a beautiful accent, I remember. Both 
Agnes and Harriet were very fond of her. I used to be jealous for 
Miss Benson's sake, and perhaps — " Lady Cuxhaven paused a 
minute — " that made me fancy that she had a way of flatteiing and 
indulging them — not quite conscientious, I used to think. But girls 
are severe judges, and certainly she had had an anxious enough life- 
time. I am always so glad when we can have her, and give her a little 
pleasure. The only thing that makes me uneasy now is the way in 
which she seems to send her daughter away from her so much ; we 
never can persuade her to bring Cynthia with her when she comes 
to see us." 

"Now that I call ill-natured," said Lady Harriet ; "hero is a 
poor dear woman trying to earn her livelihood, first as a governess, 
and what could she do with her daughter then, but send her to 
school ? and after that, when Clare is asked to go visiting, and is 
too modest to bring her girl with her — besides all the expense of the 
journey, and the rigging out — Mary finds fault with her for her 
modesty and economy." 

" Well, after all, we are not discussing Clare and her afi'airs, but 
trying to plan for mamma's comfort. I don't see that she can do 



90 WIVES AIS^D DAUGHTERS. 

better than ask Mrs. Kirkpatrick to come to tlis Tov/ers — as soon as 
her holidays begin, I mean." 

" Here is her last letter," said Lady Cumnor, vlio had been 
searching for it in her escritoire, while her daughters were talking. 
Holding her glasses before her eyes, she began to read, " ' My 
wonted misfortunes appear to have followed mo to Ashcombe ' — um, 
um, um ; that's not it — ' Mr. Preston is most kind in sending me 
fruit and flov/ers from the Manor-house, according to dear Lord 
Cumuor's kind injunction.' Oh, here it is ! ' The vacation begins 
on the 11th, according to the usual custom of schools in Ashcombe ; 
and I must then try and obtain some change of ah* and scene, in 
order to fit myself for the resumption of my duties on the 10th of 
August.' You see, girls, she would be at liberty, if she has not 
made any other arrangement for spending her holidays. To-day is 
the loth." 

" I'll write to her at once, mamma," Lady Harriet said. " Clare 
and I arc always great friends ; I was her confidant in her loves with 
poor Mr. Kirkpatrick, and we've kept up our intimacy ever since. I 
know of three offers she had besides." 

" I sincerely hope Miss Bowes is not telling her love-affairs to 
Grace or Lily. Why, Harriet, you could not have been older than 
Grace when Clare was married ! " said Lady Cuxhaveu, in maternal 
alarm, 

" No ; but I was well versed in the tender passion, thanks to 
novels. Now I daresay you don't admit novels into your school- 
room, Mary ; so your daughters wouldn't be able to administer 
discreet s}anpathy to their governess in case she was the heroine 
of a love-affair." 

" My dear Harriet, don't let me hear you talking of love in that 
way ; it is not pretty. Love is a serious thing." 

" My dear mamma, your exhortations are just eighteen years too 
late. I've talked all the freshness off love, and that's the reason I'm 
tired of the subject." 

This last speech referred to a recent refusal of Lady Harriet's, 
which had displeased Lady Cumnor, and rather annoyed my lord ; as 
they, the parents, could see no objection to the gentleman in ques- 
tion. Lady Cuxhaven did not want to have the subject brought up, 
so she hastened to say, — 

" Do ask the poor little daughter to come v.-ith her mother to the 
Towers ; why, she must be seventeen or more ; she would really be 



DRIFTING INTO DANGER. 91 

a companion to you, mamma, if her mother was unablo to come," 
said Lady Cuxliaven. 

"I 'svas not ten wlien Clare married, and I'm nearly nine-and- 
twenty," added Lady Hai'riet. 

" Don't speak of it, Harriet; at any rate you are but eight-and- 
twenty now, and you look a great deal younger. There is no need 
to be always bringing up your age on every possible occasion." 

" There was need of it now, though. I wanted to make out 
how old Cynthia Kirkpatrick was. I think she can't be far fi.-om 
eighteen." 

" She is at school at Boulogne, I know ; and so I don't think 
she can be as old as that. Clare says something about her in this 
letter: ' Under these circumstances' (the ill-success of her school), 
* I cannot think myself justified in allowing myself the pleasure of 
having darling Cynthia at home for the holidays ; especially as the 
period when the vacation in French schools commences differs from 
that common in England ; and it might occasion some confusion in 
my aiTangements if darling Cynthia were to come to Ashcombe, and 
occupy my time and thoughts so immediately before the commence- 
ment of my scholastic duties as the 8th of August, on which day her 
vacation begins, which is but two days before my holidays end.' So, 
you see, Clare would be quite at liberty to come to me, and I dare- 
say it would be a very nice change for her." 

" And Hollingford is busy seeing after his new laboratoiy at the 
Towers, and is constantly backwards and forwards. And Agnes 
wants to go there for change of air, as soon as she is strong enough 
after her confinement. And even my own dear insatiable * me ' 
will have had enough of gaiety in two or thi-ee weeks, if this hot 
weather lasts." 

" I think I may be able to come down for a few days too, if you 
■will let me, mamma ; and I'll bring Grace, who is looking ratl^er 
pale and weedy; growing too fast, I am afi-aid. So I hope you 
won't be dull." 

" My dear," said Lady Cumnor, di'awing herself up, " I should 
be ashamed of feeling dull with my resources ; my duties to others 
and to myself!" 

So the plan in its present shape was told to Lord Cumnor, who 
highly approved of it ; as he always did of ever}- project of his wife's. 
Lady Cumnor's character was perhaps a little too ponderous for him 
in reality, but he was always full of admiration for all her words and 



92 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

deeds, and used to boast of her wisdom, lier benevolence, her power 
and dignity, in her absence, as if by this means he could buttress up 
his own more feeble nature. 

"Very good — very good, indeed ! Clare to join you at the Towers ! 
Capital ! I could not have planned it better myself ! I shall go down 
with you on Wednesday in time for the jollification on Thursday. I 
always enjoy that day ; they are such nice, friendly people, those 
good Hollingford ladies. Then I'll have a day with Sheepshanks, 
and perhaps I may ride over to Ashcombe and see Preston — Brown 
Jess can do it in a day, eighteen miles — to be sure ! But there's 
back again to the Towers ! — how much is twice eighteen — thirty ? " 

" Thirty-six," said Lady Cumnor, sharply. 

"So it is; you're alwaj^s right, my dear. Preston's a clever, 
sharp fellow." 

" I don't like him," said my lady. 

" He takes looking after ; but he's a sharp fellow. He's such a 
good-looking man, too, I wonder you don't like him." 

" I never think whether a land-agent is handsome or not. They 
don't belong to the class of people whose appearance I notice." 

"To be sure not. But he is a handsome fellow; and what 
should make you like him is the interest he takes in Clare and her 
prospects. He's constantly suggesting something that can be done 
to her house, and I know he sends her fruit, and flowers, and game 
just as regularly as we should ourselves if we lived at Ashcombe." 

" How old is he ? " said Lady Cumnor, with a faint suspicion of 
motives in her mind. 

" About twenty-seven, I think. Ah ! I see what is in your lady- 
ship's head. No ! no ! he's too young for that. You must look out 
for some middle-aged man, if you want to get poor Clare married ; 
Preston won't do." 

" I'm not a match-maker, as you might know. I never did it for 
my ov.-n daughters. I'm not likely to do it for Clare," said she, 
leaning back languidly. 

"Well! you might do a worse thing. I'm beginning to think 
she'll never get on as a schoolmistress, though why she shouldn't, 
I'm sure I don't know ; for she's an uncommonly pretty woman for 
her age, and her having lived in our family, and your having had her 
60 often with you, ought to go a good way. I say, my lady, what do 
you think of Gibson '? He would be just the right age — widower — 
lives near the Towers ? " 



DRIFTING INTO DANGER. 93 

"I told you just uow I was no match-maker, my lord. I sup- 
pose we had better go by the old road — the people at those iuus 
know us ? " 

And so they passed on to speaking about other things than Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick and her prospects, scholastic or matrimonial. 



( 9i ) 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE WIDOYv^ER AND THE WIDOW. 

Mes. Kirkpatrick was ouly too liappy to accept Lady Cumuor's 
invitation. It was wliat she had been hoping for, but hardly daring 
to expect, as she believed that the family were settled in London for 
some time to come. The Towers was a pleasant and luxurious house 
in which to pass her holidays ; and though she was not one to make 
deep plans, or to look far ahead, she was quite aware of the prestige 
which her being able to say she had been staying with " dear Lady 
Cumnor " at the Towers, was likely to give her and her school in 
the eyes of a good many people ; so she glady prepared to join her 
ladyship on the 17th, Her wardrobe did not require much arrange- 
ment ; if it had done, the poor lady would not have had much money 
to appropriate to the pui-pose. She was very pretty and graceful ; 
and that goes a great way towards carrying off shabby clothes ; and 
it was her taste more than any depth of feeling, that had made her 
persevere in wearing all the delicate tints — the violets and grays — 
which, with a certain admixture of black, constitute half-mourning. 
This style of becoming dress she was supposed to wear in memory 
of Mr. Kirkpatrick ; in reality because it was both lady-like and 
economical. Her beautiful hair was of that rich auburn that hardly 
ever turns gray ; and partly out of consciousness of its beauty, and 
partly because the washing of caps is expensive, she did not wear 
anything on her head ; her complexion had the vivid tints that often 
accompany the kind of hair which has once been red ; and the only 
injury her skin had received from advancing years was that the 
colouring was rather more brilliant than delicate, and varied less 
with eveiy passing emotion. She could no longer blush ; and at 
eighteen she had been very proud of her blushes. Her eyes were 
soft, large, and china-blue in colour ; they bad not much expression 



TUB WIDOWER AND TILE WIDOW. 95 

or shadow about them, which was perhaps owing to the flaxen colour 
of her eyelashes. Her figure was a little fuller than it used to be, 
but her movements were as soft and sinuous as ever. Altogether, 
she looked much younger than her age, which was not far short of 
forty. She had a very pleasant voice, and read aloud well and dis- 
tinctly, which Lady Cumnor liked. Indeed, for some inexplicable 
reasons, she was a greater, more positive favourite with Lady 
Cumnor than with any of the rest of the family, though they all 
liked her up to a certain point, and found it agreeably useful to have 
any one in the house who was so well acquainted with their ways and 
habits ; so ready to talk, when a little trickle of conversation was 
required ; so w^illing to listen, and to listen with tolerable intelli- 
gence, if the subjects spoken about did not refer to serious solid 
literature, or science, or politics, or social economy. About novels 
and poetry, travels and gossip, personal details, or anecdotes of any 
kind, she always made exactly the remarks which are expected from 
an agreeable listener ; and she had sense enough to confine herself 
to those short expressions of wonder, admiration, and astonishment, 
which may mean anything, when more recondite things were talked 
about. 

It was a very pleasant change to a poor unsuccessful schoolmis- 
tress to leave her own house, full of battered and shabby furniture 
(she had taken the goodwill and furniture of her predecessor at a 
valuation, two or three years before), where the look-out was as 
gloomy, and the surrounding as squalid, as is often the case in 
the smaller streets of a countiy town, and to come bowling thi'our^h 
the Towers Park in the luxurious carriage sent to meet her; to 
alight, and feel secure that the well-trained servants would see after 
her bags and umbrella, and parasol, and cloak, without her loading 
herself with all these portable articles, as she had had to do while 
following the wheel-barrow containing her luggage in going to the 
Ashcombe coach-ofiice that morning ; to pass up the deep-piled 
caiq}ets of the broad shallow stairs into my lady's own room, cool 
and deliciously fresh, even on this sultiy day, and fragrant with 
gi'eat bowls of freshly gathered roses of every shade of colour. 
There were two or three new novels lying uncut on the table ; the 
daily papers, the magazines. Every chair was an easy-chair of 
some kind or other ; and all covered with French chintz that 
mimicked the real flowers in the garden below. She was familiar 
with the bedroom called hers, to v/hich she was soon ushered by 



DG WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Lady Cumuor's maid. It seemed to her far more like home than 
the dingy place she had left that moruiug ; it was so natural to her 
to like dainty draperies, and harmonious colouring, and fine linen,' 
and soft raiment. She sate down in the arm-chair by the bed-side, 
and wondered over her fate something in this fixshion — 

*' One would think it was an easy enough thing to deck a looking- 
glass like that with muslin and pink ribbons ; and yet how hard it is 
to keep it up ! People don't know how hard it is till they've tried as 
I have. I made my o^\^l glass just as pretty when I first went to 
Ashcombc ; but the muslin got dirty, and the pink ribbons faded, 
and it is so difficult to earn money to renew them ; and when one 
has got the money one hasn't the heart to spend it all at once. One 
thinks and one thinks how one can get the most good out of it ; and 
a new gown, or a day's pleasure, or some hot-house fruit, or some 
piece of elegance that can be seen and noticed in one's drawing- 
room, carries the day, and good-by to prettily decked looking-glasses. 
Now here, money is like the air they breathe. No one even asks or 
knows how much the washing costs, or what pink ribbon is a j'ard. 
Ah ! it would be different if they had to earn every penny as I have ! 
They would have to calculate, like me, hov/ to get the most pleasure 
out of it. I wonder if I am to go on all my life toiling and moiling 
for money ? It's not natural. Marriage is the natural thing ; then 
the husband has all tbat kind of dirty work to do, and his wife sits 
in the drawing-room like a lady. I did, when poor Kirkpatrick was 
alive. Heigho ! it's a sad thing to be a widow." 

Then there was the contrast between the dinners which she had 
to share with her scholars at Ashcombe — rounds of beef, legs of 
mutton, great dishes of potatoes, and large batter-puddings, with the 
tiny meal of exquisitely cooked delicacies, sent up on old Chelsea 
china, that was served every day to the earl and countess and herself 
at the Towers. She dreaded the end of her holidays as much as the 
most home-loving of her pupils. But at this time that end was 
some weeks off, so Clare shut her eyes to the future, and tried to 
relish the present to its fullest extent. A disturbance to the pleasant, 
oven course of the summer days came in the indisposition of Lady 
Cumnor. Her husband had gone back to London, and she and 
Mrs. Kirkpatrick had been left to the very even tenor of life, which 
was according to my lady's wish just now. In spite of her languor 
and fatigue, she had gone through the day when the school visitors 
came to the Towers, in full dignity, dictating clearly all that was to 



T]IE WIDOWER AND THE WIDOW. 97 

be done, what walks were to be taken, what hothouses to be seen, 
and when the party were to return to the " collation." She herself 
remained indoors, with one or two ladies who had ventured to think 
that the fatigue or the heat might be too much for them, and who 
had therefore declined accompanj'ing the ladies in charge of Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick, or those other favoured few to whom Lord Cumnor was 
explaining the new buildings in his farm-yard. " With the utmost 
condescension," as her hearers afterwards expressed it, Lady Cumnor 
told them all about her married daughters' establishments, nurseries, 
plans for the education of their children, and manner of passing the 
day. But the exertion tired her ; and when every one had left, the 
probability is that she would have gone to lie down and rest, had not 
her husband made an unlucky remark in the kindness of his heart. 
He came up to her and put his hand on her shoulder. 

" I'm afraid you're sadly tired, my lady ? " he said. 

She braced her muscles, and drew herself up, saying coldly, — 

" ^Vhen I am tired, Lord Cumnor, I will tell you so." And her 
fatigue showed itself during the rest of the evening in her sitting 
particularly upright, and declining all offers of easy-chairs or foot- 
stools, and refusing the insult of a suggestion that they should all go 
to bed earlier. She went on in something of this kind of manner as 
long as Lord Cumnor remained at the Towers. Mrs. Kirkpatrick 
was quite deceived by it, and kept assuring Lord Cumnor that she 
had never seen dear Lady Cumnor looking better, or so strong. But 
he had an affectionate heart, if a blundering head ; and though he 
could give no reason for his belief, he was almost certain his wife 
was not well. Yet he was too much afraid of her to send for 
Mr. Gibson without her permission. His last words to Clare were — 

" It's such a comfort to leave my lady to you ; only don't j'ou be 
deluded by her ways. She'll not show she's ill till she can't he^p it. 
Consult with Bradley " (Lady Cumnor's '• own woman," — she dis- 
liked the new-fangleduess of " lady's-maid ") ; " and if I were you, 
I'd send and ask Gibson to call — you might make any kind of a pre- 
tence," — and then the idea he had had in London of the fitness of a 
match between the two coming into his head just now, he could not 
help adding, — " Get him to come and see you, he's a very agreeable 
man ; Lord HoUiugford says there's no one like him in these parts : 
and he might be looking at my lady while he was talking to you, and 
see if he thinks her really ill. And let me know what he says 
about her." 

Vol. I. 7 



98 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

But Clare was just as great a coward about doing anything for 
Lady Cumnor which she had not expressly ordered, as Lord Cumnor 
himself. She knew she might fall into such disgrace if she sent for 
Mr. Gibson without direct permission, that she might never be asked 
to stay at the Towers again ; and the life there, monotonous in its 
smoothness of luxury as it might be to some, v/as exactly to her 
taste. She in her turn tried to put upon Bradley the duty which 
Lord Cumnor had put upon her. 

" Mrs. Bradley," she said one day, " are you quite comfortable 
about my lady's health? Lord Cumnor fancied that she was looking 
worn and ill ?" 

" Indeed, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, I don't think my lady is herself. I 
can't persuade myself as she is, though if you was to question me till 
night I couldn't tell you why." 

" Don't you think you could make some errand to HoUingford, 
and see Mr. Gibson, and ask him to come round this way some day, 
and make a call on Lady Cumnor ? " 

" It would be as much as my place is worth, Mrs. Kirkpatrick. 
Till my lady's dying day, if Providence keeps her in her senses, 
she'll have everything done her own way, or not at all. There's only 
Lady Harriet that can manage her the least, and she not always." 

" Well, then — we must hope that there is nothing the matter 
with her ; and I daresay there is not. She says there is not, and 
she ought to know best herself." 

But a day or two after this conversation took place, Lady Cumnor 
startled Mrs. liirkpatrick, by saying suddenly, — 

" Clare, I wish you'd write a note to Mr. Gibson, saying I should 
like to see him this afternoon. I thought he would have called of 
himself before now. He ought to have done so, to pay his respects." 

Mr. Gibson had been far too busy in his profession to have time 
for mere visits of ceremony, though he knew quite well he was 
neglecting what was expected of him. But the district of which he 
may bo said to have had medical charge was full of a bad kind of 
low fever, which took up all his time and thought, and often made 
him very thankful that Molly was out of the way in the quiet shades 
of Hamley. 

His domestic " rows " had not healed over in the least, though 
he was obliged to put the perplexities on one side for the time. The 
last drop — the final straw, had been an impromptu visit of Lord 
HoUingford's, whom he had met in the town one forenoon. They 



TUE WIDOAVER AND THE WIDOW. 99 

liad had a good deal to say to each other about some new scientific 
discovery, with the details of which Lord Hollingford was well 
acquainted, while Mr. Gibson was ignorant and deeply interested. 
At length Lord Hollingford said suddenly, — 

" Gibson, I wonder if you'd give me some lunch; I've been a 
^ood deal about since my seven-o'clock breakfast, and am getting 
quite ravenous." 

Now Mr. Gibson was only too much pleased to show hospitaUty 
to one whom he liked and respected so much as Lord Hollingford, 
and he gladly took him home with him to the early family dinner. 
But it was just at the time when the cook was sulking at Bethia's 
dismissal — and she chose to be unpunctual and careless. There was 
no successor to Bethia as yet appointed to wait at the meals. So, 
though Mr. Gibson knew well that bread-and-cheese, cold beef, or 
the simplest food available, would have been welcome to the hungry 
lord, he could not get either these things for luncheon, or even the 
family dinner, at anything like the proper time, in spite of all his 
ringing, and as much anger as he liked to show, for fear of making 
Lord Hollingford uncomfortable. At last dinner was ready, but the 
poor host saw the want of nicety — almost the want of cleanliness, 
in all its accompaniments — dingy plate, dull-looking glass, a table- 
cloth that, if not absolutely dirty, was anything but fresh in its 
splashed and rumpled condition, and compared it in his own mind 
with the dainty delicacy with which even a loaf of brown bread was 
served up at his guest's home. He did not apologize directly, but, 
after dinner, just as they were parting, he said, — 

" You see a man like me — a widower — vdth a daughter who 
cannot always be at home — has not a regulated household which 
would enable me to command the small portions of time I can spend 
there." ,, 

He made no allusion to the comfortless meal of which they had 
both partaken, though it was full in his mind. Nor was it absent 
from Lord Hollingford's as he made reply, — 

" True, true. Yet a man like you ought to be free from any 
thought of household cares. You ought to have somebody. How 
old is Miss Gibson?" 

" Seventeen. It's a veiy awkward age for a motherless girl." 

"Yes; very. I have only boys, but it must be very awkward 
with a girl. Excuse me, Gibson, but we're talking like fiicnds. 
Have you never thought of marrying again ? It would not be like 

7-2 



100 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

a first marriage, of course ; but if you found a sensible agreeable 
woman of thirty or so, I really think you couldn't do better than take 
her to manage your home, and so save you either discomfort or 
wrong ; and, beside, she would be able to give your daughter that 
kind of tender supervision which, I fancy, all girls of that age 
require. It's a delicate subject, but you'll excuse my having spoken 
frankly." 

Mr, Gibson had thought of this advice several times since it was 
given ; but it was a case of " first catch your hare." Where was 
the " sensible and agreeable woman of thirty or so?" Not Miss 
Browning, nor Miss Phoebe, nor Miss Goodenough. Among his 
country patients there were two classes pretty distinctly marked : 
farmers, whose children were unrefined and uneducated ; squires, 
whose daughters would, indeed, think the world was coming to a 
pretty pass, if they were to marry a country surgeon. 

But the first day on which Mr. Gibson paid his visit to Lady 
Cumnor, he began to think it possible that Mrs. Kirkpatrick was his 
" hare." He rode away with slack rein, thinking over what he knew 
of her, more than about the prescriptions he should write, or the way 
he was going. He remembered her as a very pretty Miss Clare : the 
governess who had the scarlet fever ; that was in his wife's days, a 
long time ago ; he could hardly understand Mrs. Kirkpatrick's 
youthfuluess of appearance when he thought how long. Then he had 
heard of her marriage to a curate ; and the next day (or so it 
seemed, he could not recollect the exact duration of the interval), 
of his death. He knew, in some way, that ever since she had been 
living as a governess in difi'erent faniilies ; but that she had always 
been a great favourite with the family at the Towers, for whom, quite 
independent of their rank, he had a true respect. A year or two 
ago he had heard that she had taken the good-will of a school at 
Ashcombe ; a small town close to another property of Lord Cumnor's, 
in the same county. Ashcombe was a larger estate than that near 
Holliugford, but the old Manor-house there was not nearly so good 
a residence as the Towers ; so it was given up to Mr. Preston, the 
laud-agent, for the Ashcombe property, just as Mr. Sheepshanks was 
for that at Holliugford. There were a few rooms at the Manor-house 
reserved for the occasional visits of the family, otherwise Mr. Preston, 
a handsome young bachelor, had it all to himself. Mr. Gibson knew 
that Mrs. Kirkpatrick had one child, a daughter, who must be much 
about the same age as Molly. Of course she had very little, if any, 



THE WIDOWED, AND THE WIDOW. 101 

property. But he liimself had lived carefully, and had a few 
thousands well invested ; besides which, his professional income \vas 
good, and increasing rather than diminishing every year. By the 
time he had arrived at this point in his consideration of the case, he 
was at the house of the next patient on his round, and he put away 
all thought of matrimony and Mrs. Ivirkpatrick for the time. Once 
,again, in the course of the day, he remembered with a certain 
pleasure that Molly had told him some little details connected with 
her unlucky detention at the Towers five or six years ago, which had 
made him feel at the time as if Mrs. Kirkpatrick had behaved very 
kindly to his little girl. 80 there the matter rested for the present, 
as far as he was concerned. 

Lady Cumnor was out of health ; but not so ill as she had been 
fancying herself during all those days when the people about her 
dared not send for the doctor. It was a great relief to her to have 
Mr. Gibson to decide for her what she was to do ; v>'hat to eat, drink, 
avoid. Such decisions ab extra, are sometimes a wonderful relief to 
those whose habit it has been to decide, not only for themselves, 
but for every one else ; and occasionally the relaxation of the strain 
which a character for infallible wisdom brings with it, does much to 
restore health. Mrs. Kirkpatrick thought in her secret soul that 
she had never found it so easy to get on with Lady Cumnor ; and 
Bradley and she had never done singing the praises of Mr. Gibson, 
'• who always managed my lady so beautifully." 

Repoi'ts were duly sent up to my lord, but he and his daughters 
were strictly forbidden to come down. Lady Cumnor wished to be 
weak and languid, and uncertain both in body and mind, without the 
family observation. It was a condition so difi'erent to anything she 
had ever been in before, that she was unconsciously afraid of losing 
her prestige, if she was seen in it. Sometimes she herself -n^'ote the 
daily bulletins ; at other times she bade Clare do it, but she would 
always see the letters. Any answers she received from her daughters 
she used to read herself, occasionally imparting some of their contents 
to " that good Clare." But anybody might read my lord's letters. 
There was no great fear of family secrets oozing out in his sprawling 
lines of afl'ection. But once Mrs. Kirkpatrick came upon a sentence 
in a letter from Lord Cumnor, which she was reading out loud to 
his wife, that caught her eye before she came to it, and if she could 
have skipped it and kept it for private perusal, she would gladly have 
done so. My lady was too sharp for her, though. In her opinion 



102 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Clare was a good creature, but not clever," the truth being that 
she was not always quick at resources, though tolerably unscrupulous 
in the use of them. 

" Read on. What are you stopping for ? There is no bad news,, 
is there, about Agnes ? — Give me the letter." 

Lady Cumnor read, half aloud, — 

" How are Clare and Gibson getting on ? You despised my advice 
to help on that affair, but I really think a little match-making would 
be a veiy pleasant amusement now that you are shut up in the house ; 
and I cannot conceive any marriage more suitable." 

" Oh ! " said Lady Cumnor, laughing, " it was awkward for you 
to come upon that, Clare : I don't wonder you stopped short. You 
gave me a terrible fright, though." 

"Lord Cumnor is so fond of joking," said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, a 
little flurried, yet quite recognizing the truth of his last words, — 
" I cannot conceive any marriage more suitable." She wondered 
what Lady Cumnor thought of it. Lord Cumnor wrote as if there 
was really a chance. It was not an unpleasant idea ; it brought a 
faint smile out upon her face, as she sat by Lady Cumnor, while the 
latter took her afternoon nap. 



( 103 



CHAPTER X. 

A CRISIS. 

Mrs. KiEKPATEicK had been reading aloud till Lady Cumnor fell 
asleep, the book rested on her knee, just kept from falling by her 
hold. She was looking out of the window, not seeing the trees iu 
the park, nor the glimpses of the hills beyond, but thinking how 
pleasant it would be to ha^-e a husband once more ; — some one who 
would work while she sate at her elegant ease in a prettily-furnished 
drawing-room ; and she was rapidly investing this imaginary bread- 
winner with the form and features of the country surgeon, when there 
was a slight tap at the door, and almost before she could rise, the 
object of her thoughts came in. She felt herself blush, and she was 
not displeased at the consciousness. She advanced to meet hhn, 
making a sign towards her sleeping ladyship. 

" Veiy good," said he, in a low voice, casting a professional eye 
on the slumbering figure ; " can I speak to you for a minute or two 
in the library? " 

" Is he going to offer ? " thought she, with a sudden palpitation, 
and a conviction of her willingness to accept a man whom an hour 
before she had simply looked upon as one of the category of 
unmarried men to whom matrimony was possible. ^ 

He was only going to make one or two medical inquiries ; she 
found that out very speedily, and considered the conversation as 
rather flat to her, though it might be instructive to him. She was 
not aware that he finally made up his mind to propose, during the 
time that she was speaking — answering his questions in many words, 
but he was accustomed to winnow the chafi" from the corn ; and her 
voice was so soft, her accent so pleasant, that it struck him as par- 
ticularly agreeable after the broad country accent he was perpetually 
hearing. Then the harmonious colours of her dress, and her slow 
and graceful movements, had something of the same soothing effect 



104 WIVES AND DAUGHTEHS. 

upon his nerves that a cat's purring has upon some people's. He 
began to think that he should be fortunate if he could win her, for 
his own sake. Yesterday he had looked upon her more as a possible 
stepmother for Molly ; to-day he thought more of her as a wife for 
himself. The remembrance of Lord Cumnor's letter gave her a very 
becoming consciousness ; she wished to attract, and hoped that she 
was succeeding. Still they only talked of the countess's state for 
some time : then a lucky shower came on. Mr. Gibson did not 
care a jot for rain, but just now it gave him an excuse for lingering. 

" It's very stormy weather," said he. 

" Yes, very. My daughter writes me word, that for tvv'o days 
last week the packet could not sail from Boulogne." 

" Miss Kirkpatrick is at Boulogne, is she '? " 

" Yes, poor girl ; she is at school there, trying to perfect herself 
in the French language. But, Mr. Gibson, you must not call her 
Miss Kirkpatrick. Cynthia remembers you with so much — affection, 
I may say. She was your little patient M'hen she had the measles 
here four years ago, you know. Pray call her Cynthia ; she would 
be quite hurt at such a formal name as Miss Kirkpatrick from you." 

" Cynthia seems to me such an out-of-the-way name, only fit for 
poetry, not for daily use." 

"It is mine," said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, in a plaintive tone of 
reproach. "I was christened Hyacinth, and her poor father would 
have her called after me. I'm sorry you don't like it." 

Mr. Gibson did not know what to say. He was not quite pre- 
pared to plunge into the directly personal style. While he was 
hesitating, she went on — 

*' Hyacinth Clare ! Once upon a time I was quite proud of my 
pretty name ; and other people thought it pretty, too." 

" I've no doubt — " Mr. Gibson began; and then stopped. 

"Perhaps I did wrong in yielding to his wish, to have her 
called by such a romantic name. It may excite prejudice against 
her in some people ; and, poor child ! she will have enough to 
struggle with. A young daughter is a great charge, Mr. Gibson, 
especially when there is only one parent to look after her." 

" You are quite right," said he, recalled to the remembrance of 
Molly; " though I should have thought that a girl who is so for- 
tunate as to have a mother could not feel the loss of her father so 
acutely as one who is motherless must suffer from her deprivation." 

" You are thinking of your own daughter. It was careless of me 



A CRISIS. 105 

to say wliat I did. Dear cliild ! liow well I remember ber sweet 
little face as sbe lay sleeping on my bed. I suppose sbe is nearly 
groAra-up now. Sbe must be near my Cyntbia's age. How I sboukl 
like to see ber ! " 

" I bope you will. I sbould like you to see ber. I sbould like 
you to love my poor little Molly, — to love ber as your own — " He 
swallowed down sometbing tbat rose in bis tbroat, and was nearly 
clicking bim. 

" Is be going to offer ? J.s be ? " sbe wondered ; and sbe began 
to tremble in tbe suspense before be next spoke. 

" Could you love ber as your daugbter ? "Will you try ? Will 
you give me tbe rigbt of introducing you to bor as ber futui'e motber; 
as my wife ? " 

Tbere ! be bad done it — wbetber it was wise or foolisb — be bad 
done it ; but be was aware tbat tbe question as to its wisdom came 
into bis mind tbe instant tbat tbe words were said past recall. 

Sbe bid ber face in ber bauds. 

" Ob ! Mr. Gibson," sbe said ; and tben, a little to bis surprise, 
and a great deal to ber own, sbe burst into bysterical tears : it was 
sucb a wonderful relief to feel tbat sbe need not struggle any more 
for a livelibood. 

" My dear — my dearest," said be, trying to sootbe ber witb word 
and caress ; but, just at tbe moment, uncertain wbat name be ougbt 
to use. After ber sobbing bad abated a little, sbe said berself, as if 
understanding his difficulty, — 

" Call me Hyacinth— your own Hyacinth. I can't bear ' Clare,' 
it does so remind me of being a governess, and those days are all 
past now." 

' ' Yes ; but surely no one can have been more valued, more 
beloved than you have been in this family at least." ^ 

" Oh, yes ! they have been very good. But still one has always 
bad to remember one's position." 

" We ought to tell Lady Cumnor," said he, thinking, perhaps, 
more of tbe various duties which lay before bim in consequence of 
the step be had just taken, than of wbat his future bride was saying. 

"You'll tell ber, won't you?" said sbe looking up in his face 
with beseeching eyes. " I always like other people to tell ber 
things, and tben I can see how she takes them." 

" Certainly ! I will do whatever you wish. Shall we go and see 
if she is awake now ? " 



106 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" No ! I think not, I had better prepare her. You will come 
to-morrow, won't you ? and you will tell her then." 

" Yes ; that will be best. I ought to tell Molly first. She has the 
right to know. I do hope you and she will love each other dearly." 

" Oh, yes ! I'm sure we shall. Then you'll come to-morrow and 
tell Lady Cumnor ? And I'll prepare her." 

" I don't see what preparation is necessary; but j'ou know best, 
my dear. When can we arrange for you and Molly to meet ? " 

Just then a servant came in, and the pair started apart. 

" Her ladyship is awake, and wishes to see Mr. Gibson." 

They both followed the man upstairs ; Mrs. Kirkpatrick trying 
hard to look as if nothing had happened, for she particularly wished 
*' to prepare " Lady Cumnor ; that is to say, to give her version of 
Mr. Gibson's extreme urgency, and her own coy unwillingness. 

But Lady Cumnor had observant e5'es in sickness as well as in 
health. She had gone to sleep with the recollection of the passage 
in her husband's letter full in her mind, and, perhaps, it gave a 
direction to her wakening ideas. 

"I'm glad you're not gone, Mr. Gibson. I wanted to tell 

you What's the matter with you both ? What have you been 

saying to Clare ? I'm sure something has happened." 

There was nothing for it, in Mr. Gibson's opinion, but to make 
a clean breast of it, and tell her ladyship all. He turned round, and 
took hold of Mrs. Kirkpatrick's hand, and said out straight, " I have 
been asking Mrs. Ivirkpatrick to be my wife, and to be a mother to 
my child ; and she has consented. I hardly know how to thank her 
enough in words." 

"Umph! I don't see any objection. I daresay you'll be very 
happy. I'm very glad of it ! Here ! shake hands with me, both of 
you." Then laughing a little, she added, " It does not seem to me 
that any exertion has been requii'ed on my part." 

Mr. Gibson looked perplexed at these words. Mrs. Kirkpatrick 
reddened. 

" Did she not tell you ? Oh, then, I must. It's too good a 
joke to be lost, especially as everj-thing has ended so well. When 
Lord Cumnor's letter came this morning — this very morning, I gave 
it to Clare to read aloud to me, and I saw she suddenly came to a 
full stop, where no full stop could be, and I thought it was something 
about Agnes, so I took the letter and read — stay ! I'll read the 
sentence to you. Where's the letter, Clare ? Oh ! don't trouble 



A CEISIS. 107 

yourself, here it is. * How are Clare and Gibson getting on ? You 
despised my advice to help on that affair, but I really think a little 
match-making would be a very pleasant amusement, now that you 
are shut up in the house ; and I cannot conceive any marriage moro 
suitable.' You see, you have my lord's full approbation. But I 
must write, and tell him you have managed your own affairs without 
any interference of mine. Now we'll just have a little medical talk, 
Mr. Gibson, and then you and Clare shall finish your tete-a-tete." 

They were neither of them quite as desirous of further conversa- 
tion together as they had been before the passage out of Lord 
Cumnor's letter had been read aloud. Mr. Gibson tried not to 
think about it, for he was aware that if he dwelt upon it, he might 
get to fancy all sorts of things, as to the conversation which had 
ended in his offer. But Lady Cumnor was imperious now, as always. 

" Come, no nonsense. I always made my girls go and have 
tete-a-tetes with the men who were to be their husbands, whether 
they would or no : there's a great deal to be talked over before every 
marriage, and you two are certainly old enough to be above affecta- 
tion. Go away with you." 

So there was nothing for it but for them to return to the library ; 
Mrs. Erkpatrick pouting a little, and Mr. Gibson feeling more like 
his own cool, sarcastic self, by many degrees, than he had done 
when last in that room. 

She began, half crying, — 

" I cannot tell what poor Kirkpatrick would say if he knew what 
I have done. He did so dislike the notion of second marriages, 
poor fellow." 

" Let us hope that he doesn't know, then ; or that, if he does, 
he is wiser — I mean, that he sees how second marriages may be 
most desirable and expedient in some cases." v 

Altogether, this second tete-a-tete, done to command, was not so 
satisfactory as the first; and Mr. Gibson was quite alive to the 
necessity of proceeding on his round to see his patients before very 
much time had elapsed. 

" We shall shake down into uniformity before long, I've no 
doubt," said he to himself, as he rode away. "It's hardly to be 
expected that our thoughts should run in the same groove all at 
once. Nor should I like it," he added. " It would be very flat and 
stagnant to have only an echo of one's own opinions from one's wife. 
Heigho ! I must tell Molly about it : dear little woman, I wonder 



108 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

how she'll take it ? It's done, in a great measure, for her good." 
And then he lost himself in recapitulating Mrs. Kirkpatrick's good 
qualities, and the advantages to he gained to his daughter from the 
step he had just taken. 

It was too late to go round hy Hamley that afternoon. The 
Towers and the Towers' round lay just in the opposite direction to 
Hamley. So it was the next morning hefore Mr. Gihson arrived at 
the hall, timing his visit as well as he could so as to have half-an- 
hour's private talk with Molly hefore Mrs. Hamley came down into 
the drawing-room. He thought that his daughter would require 
sympathy after receiving the intelligence he had to communicate ; 
and he knew there was no one more fit to give it than Mrs. 
Hamley. 

It was a hrilliantly hot summer's morning ; men in their shirt- 
sleeves were in the fields getting in the early harvest of oats ; as 
Mr. Gihson rode slowly along, he could see them over the tall hedge- 
rov.'S, and even hear the soothing measured sound of the fall of the 
long swathes, as they were mown. The lahourers seemed too hot to 
talk ; the dog, guarding their coats and cans, lay panting loudly on 
the other side of the elm, under which Mr. Gibson stopped for an 
instant to survey the scene, and gain a little delay hefore the inter- 
view that he wished was well over. In another minute he had 
snapped at himself for his weakness, and put spurs to his horse. 
He came up to the hall at a good sharp trot ; it was earlier than the 
usual time of his visits, and no one was expecting him ; all the 
stahle-men were in the fields, but that signified little to Mr. Gibson ; 
he walked his horse about for five minutes or so hefore taking him 
into the stable, and loosened his girths, examining him with perhaps 
unnecessary exactitude. He went into the house by a private door, 
and made his way into the drawing-room, half expecting, however, 
that Molly would be in the garden. She had been there, but it was 
too hot and dazzling now for her to remain out of doors, and she 
had come in by the open window of the drawing-room. Oppressed 
with the heat, she had fallen asleep in an easy-chair, her bonnet and 
open book upon her knee, one arm hanging listlessly down. She 
looked very soft, and young, and childlike ; and a gush of love 
sprang into her father's heart as he gazed at her. 

" Molly !" said he, gently, taking the little brown hand that was 
hanging down, and holding it in his own. " Molly ! " 

She opened her eyes, that for one moment had no recognition in 



A CRISIS. 109 

them. Then the light came brilliantly into them and she sprang up, 
and threw her arms round his neck, exclaiming, — 

" Oh, papa, my dear, dear papa ! What made you come while I 
was asleep '? I lose the pleasure of watching for you." 

Mr. Gibson turned a little paler than he had been before. He 
still held her hand, and drew her to a seat by him on a sofa, without 
speaking. There was ho need ; she was chattering away. 

" I was up so early ! It is so charming to be out here in the 
fresh morning air. I think that made me sleepy. But isn't it a 
gloriously hot day ? I wonder if the Italian skies they talk about 
can be bluer than that — that little bit you see just between the oaks 
—there ! " 

She pulled her hand away, and used both it and the other to 
turn her father's head, so that he should exactly see the very bit 
she meant. She was rather struck by his unusual silence. 

" Have you heard from Miss Eyre, papa ? How are they all ? 
And this fever that is about ? Do you know, papa, I don't think 
you are looking well? You want me at home to take care of you. 
How soon may I come heme ? " 

" Don't I look well ? That must be all your fancy, goosey. I 

feel uncommonly well ; and I ought to look well, for • I have a 

piece of news for you, little woman." (He felt that he was doin" his 
business very awkwardly, but he was determined to plunge on.) 
" Can you guess it ? " 

" How should I ? " said she ; but her tone was changed, and she 
was evidently uneasy, as with the presage of an instinct. 

*' "Why, you see, my love," said he, again taking her hand, "that 
you are in a very awkward position — a girl growing up in such a 
family as mine — young men — which was a piece of confounded 
stupidity on my part. And I am obliged to be away so much." 

" But there is Miss Eyre," said she, sick with the strengthening 
indefinite presage of what was to come. " Dear Miss Eyre, I want 
nothing but her and you." 

" Still there are times like the present when Miss Eyre cannot 
be with you ; her home is not with us ; she has other duties. I've 
been in great pei-plexity for some time ; but at last I've taken a step 
which will, I hope, make us both happier," 

"You're going to be married again," said she, helping him out, 
with a quiet dry voice, and gently drawing her hand out of his. 

"Yes. To Mrs. Kirkpatrick — ^you remember her? They call 



110 WIVES AXD DAUGHTERS. 

her Clare at the Towers. You recollect how kind she was to you 
that day you were left there ? " 

She did not answer. She could not tell what words to use. She 
was afraid of saying anything, lest the passion of anger, dislike, 
indignation — whatever it was that was boiling up in her breast — 
should find vent in cries and screams, or worse, in raging words that 
could never be forgotten. It was as if the piece of solid ground on 
which she stood had broken from the shore, and she was drifting out 
to the infinite sea alone. 

Mr. Gibson saw that her silence was unnatural, and half-guessed 
at the cause of it. But he knew that she must have time to reconcile 
herself to the idea, and still believed that it would be for her eventual 
happiness. He had, besides, the relief of feeling that the secret was 
told, the confidence made, which he had been di'eading for the last 
iwenty-four hours. He went on recapitulating all the advantages of 
the marriage ; he knew them off by heart now. 

" She's a very suitable age for me. I don't know how old she is 
exactly, but she must be nearly forty. I shouldn't have wished to 
marry any one younger. She's highly respficted by Lord and Lady 
Cumuor and their family, which is of itself a character. She has 
very agreeable and polished manners — of course, from the circles 
she has been thrown into — and you and I, goosey, are apt to be a 
little brusque, or so ; we must brush up our manners now." 

No remark from her on this little bit of playfulness. He 
went on, — 

" She has been accustomed to housekeeping — economical house- 
keeping, too — for of late years she has had a school at Ashcombe, 
and has had, of course, to arrange all things for a large family. 
And last, but not least, she has a daughter — about your age, Molly 
— who, of course, will come and live with us, and be a nice com- 
panion — a sister — for you." 

Still she was silent. At length she said, — 

" So I was sent out of the house that all this might be quietly 
arranged in my absence ?" 

Out of the bitterness of her heart she spoke, but she was roused 
out of her assumed impassiveness by the effect produced. Her father 
started up, and quickly left the room, saying something to himself 
— what, she could not hear, though she ran after him, followed him 
through dark stone passages, into the glare of the stable-yard, into 
the stables — 



A CRISIS. Ill 

" Oh, papa, papa — I'm not myself — I don't know what to say 
ahout this hateful — detestable " 

He led his horse out. She did not know if he heard her word. 
Just as he mounted, he turned round upon her with a grey grim 
face — 

" I think it's better for both of us, for me to go away now. We 
may say things difficult to forget. We are both much agitated. By 
to-morrow we shall be more composed ; you will have thought it 
over, and seen that the principal — one great motive, I mean — was 
your good. You may tell Mrs. Hamley — I meant to have told her 
myself. I will come again to-morrow. Good-by, Molly." 

For many minutes after he had ridden away — long after the 
sound of his horse's hoofs on the round stones of the paved lane, 
beyond the home-meadows, had died away — Molly stood there, 
shading her eyes, and looking at the empty space of air in which his 
form had last appeared. Her very breath seemed suspended ; only, 
two or three times, after long intervals, she drew a miserable sigh, 
which was caught up into a sob. She turned away at last, but 
could not go into the house, could not tell Mrs. Hamley, could not 
forget how her father had looked and spoken — and left her. 

She went out through a side-door — it was the way by which the 
gardeners passed when they took the manure into the garden — and 
the walk to which it led was concealed from sight as much as 
possible by shrubs and evergreens and over-arching trees. No one 
would know what became of her — and, with the ingratitude of misery, 
she added to herself, no one would care. Mrs. Hamley had her own 
husband, her own childi-en, her close home interests — she was very 
good and kind, but there was a bitter grief in Molly's heart, with 
which the stranger could not intermeddle. She went quickly on to 
the bourne which she had fixed for herself — a seat almost sur- 
rounded by the drooping leaves of a weeping-ash — a seat on the 
long broad ten-ace walk on the other side of the wood, that over- 
looked the pleasant slope of the meadows beyond. The walk had 
probably been made to command this sunny, peaceful landscape, 
with trees, and a church spire, two or three red-tiled roofs of old 
cottages, and a puii^le bit of rising gi'ound in the distance ; and at 
some previous date, when there might have been a large family of 
Hamleys residing at the Hall, ladies in hoops, and gentlemen in 
bag-wigs with swords by their sides, might have filled up the breadth 
of the terrace, as they sauntered, smiling, along. But no one ever 



112 WIVES AKD DAUGHTERS. 

cared to saunter there now. It -n-as a desei-tecl walk. The squire or 
his sons might cross it in passing to a little gate that led to the 
meadow heyond ; but no one loitered there. Molly almost thought 
that no one knew of the hidden seat under the ash -tree but herself; 
for there were not more gardeners employed upon the grounds than 
were necessary to keep the kitchen-gardens and such of the orna- 
mental part as was frequented by the family, or in sight of the house, 
in good order. 

When she had once got to the seat she broke out with sup- 
pressed passion of grief. She did not care to analyze the sources of 
her tears and sobs — her father was going to be married again — her 
father was angiy with her; she had done very wrong — he had gone 
away displeased ; she had lost his love ; he was going to be married 
— away from her — away from his child — his little daughter — for- 
getting her own dear, dear mother. So she thought in a tumultuous 
kind of way, sobbing till she was v/earied out, and had to gain 
strength by being quiet for a time, to break forth into her passion of 
tears afresh. She had cast herself on the ground — that natural 
throne for violent sorrow — and leant up against the old moss-grown 
seat ; sometimes burying her face in her hands ; sometimes clasping 
them together, as if by the tight painful grasp of her fingers she 
could deaden mental suflferiug. 

She did not see Roger Hamley returning from the meadows, nor 
hear the click of the little white gate. He had been out dredging in 
ponds and ditches, and had his wet sling-net, with its imprisoned 
treasures of uastiness, over his shoulder. He was coming home to 
hmch, having always a fine midday appetite, though he pretended to 
despise the meal in theory. But he knew that his mother liked his 
companionship then ; she depended much upon her luncheon, and 
was seldom downstairs and visible to her family much before the 
time. So he overcame his theory, for the sake of his mother, and 
had his reward in the hearty relish with which he kept her company 
in eating. 

He did not see Molly as he crossed the terrace-walk on his way 
homewards. He had gone about twenty yai'ds along the small wood- 
path at right angles to the terrace, when, looking among the grass 
and wild plants under the trees, he spied out one which was rare, 
one which he had been long wishing to find in flower, and saw it at 
last, with those bright keen eyes of his. Down went his net, 
skilfully twisted so as to retain its contents, while it lay amid the 



A CRISIS. 113 

herbage, and he himself went with light aud well-planted footsteps in 
search of the treasure. Ho was so great a lover of nature that, 
•without any thought, but habitually, he always avoided treading 
unnecessarily on any plant ; who knew what long-sought growth 
or insect might develop itself in that which now appeared but 
insignificant ? 

His steps led him in the direction of the ash-trco seat, much 
less screened from observation on this side than on the terrace. Ho 
stopped ; he saw a light-coloured dress on the ground — somebody 
half-lying on the seat, so still just then, he wondered if the person, 
whoever it was, had fallen ill or fainted. He paused to watch. In 
a minute or two the sobs broke out again — the words. It' was Miss 
Gibson crying in a broken voice, — 

" Oh, papa, papa ! if you would but come back ! " 

For a minute or two he thought it would be kinder to leave her 
fixucying herself unobserved ; he had even made a retrograde step 
or two, on tip-toe ; but then he heard the miserable sobbing again. 
It was farther than his mother could walk, or else, be the sorrow 
what it would, she was the natural comforter of this girl, her visitor. 
However, whether it was right or wrong, delicate or obtrusive, when 
he heard the sad voice talking again, in such tones of uncomforted, 
lonely misery, he turned back, and went to the green tent under the 
ash-tree. She started up when he came thus close to her ; she tried 
to check her sobs, and instinctively smoothed her wet tangled hair 
back with her hands. 

He looked down upon her with grave, kind sympathy, but he did 
not know exactly what to say. 

"Is it lunch-time ? " said she, trying to believe that he did not 
see the traces of her tears and the disturbance of her features — that 
he had not seen her lying, sobbing her heart out there. 

" I don't know. I was going home to lunch. But — vou must let 
me say it — I couldn't go on when I saw your distress. Has anything 
happened ? — anything in which I can help you, I mean ; for, of 
course, I've no right to make the inquiiy, if it is any private sorrow, 
in which I can be of no use." 

She had exhausted herself so much with crying, that she felt as 
if she could neither stand nor walk just yet. She sate down on the 
seat, and sighed, and turned so pale, he"^ thought she was going to 
faint. 

*' Wait a moment," said he, quite unnecessarily, for she could 
Vol. I. 8 



114 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

not have stirred ; and lie was off like a shot to some spring of water 
that he knew of in the wood, and in a minute or two he returned 
with careful steps, bringing a little in a broad green leaf, turned inta 
an impromptu cup. Little as it was, it did her good. 

" Thank j'ou ! " she said: " I can walk back now, in a short 
time. Don't stop." 

" You must let me," said he : " my mother wouldn't like me to 
leave you to come home alone, while you are so faint." 

So they remained in silence for a little while ; he, breaking off' 
and examining one or two abnormal leaves of the ash-tree, partly 
from the custom of his nature, partly to give her time to recover. 

" Papa is going to be married again," said she, at length. 

She could not have said why she told him this ; an instant before 
she spoke, she had no intention of doing so. He dropped the leaf 
he held in his hand, turned round, and looked at her. Her poor 
wistful eyes were filling with tears as they met his, with a dumb 
appeal for sympathy. Her look was much more eloquent than her 
words. There was a momentary pause before he replied, and then 
it was more because he felt that he must say something than that he 
was in any doubt as to the answer to the question he asked. 

' ' You are sorry for it ? " 

She did not take her eyes away from his, as her quivering lips 
formed the word " Yes," though her voice made no sound. He was 
silent again now ; looking on the ground, kicking softly at a loose 
pebble with his foot. His thoughts did not come readily to the 
surface in the shape of words ; nor was he apt at giving comfort till 
he saw his way clear to the real source from which consolation must 
come. At last he spoke, — almost as if he was reasoning out the 
matter with himself. 

" It seems as if there might be cases where — setting the question 
of love entirely on one side — it must be almost a duty to find some 
one to be a substitute for the mother. ... I can believe," said he, 
in a difierent tone of voice, and looking at Molly afresh, "that this 
step may be greatly for your father's happiness — it may relieve him 
from many cares, and may give him a pleasant companion." 

" He had me. You don't know what we were to each other — at 
least, what he was to me," she added, humbly. 

" Still he must have thought it for the best, or he wouldn't 
have done it. He may have thought it the best for your sake even 
more than for his o\vu." 



A CllISIS. 115 

*' That is what he tried to convince me of." 

Roger began kicking the pebble again. He had not got hold of 
the right end of the clue. Suddenly he looked up. 

" I want to tell you of a girl I know. Her mother died when 
she was about sixteen — the eldest of a large family. From that 
time — all through the bloom of her youth — she gave herself up to 
her father, first as his comforter, afterwards as his companion, friend, 
secretary — anything you like. He was a man with a great deal of 
business on hand, and often came home only to set to afresh to pre- 
parations for the next day's work. Harriet was always there, ready 
to help, to talk, or to be silent. It went on for eight or ten years 
in this way ; and then her father married again, — a woman not many 
years older than Harriet herself. Well — they are just the happiest 
set of people I know — you wouldn't have thought it likely, would 
you ? " 

She was listening, but she had no heart to say anything. Yet 
she was interested in this little story of Harriet — a girl who had 
been so much to her father, more than Molly in this early youth of 
hers could have been to Mr. Gibson. " How was it ? " she sighed 
out at last. 

" Harriet thought of her father's happiness before she thought 
of her own," Roger answered, with something of severe brevity. 
Molly needed the bracing. She began to cry again a little. 

" If it were for papa's happiness " 

" He must believe that it is. Whatever you fancy, give him a 
chance. He cannot have much comfort, I should think, if he sees 
you fretting or pining,' — you who have been so much to him, as you 
say. The lady herself, too — if Harriet's stepmother had been a 
selfish woman, and been always clutching after the gratification of 
her own wishes ; but she was not : she was as anxious for Harriet 
to be happy as Harriet was for her father — and your father's future 
wife may be another of the same kind, though such people are 
rare." 

" I don't think she is, though," murmured Molly, a waft of 
recollection bringing to her mind the details of her day at the Towers 
long ago. 

Roger did not want to hear Molly's reasons for this doubting 
speech. He felt as if he had no right to hear more of Mr. Gibson's 
family life, past, present, or to come, than was absolutely necessary 
for him, in order that he might comfort and help the crying girl, 

R— 2 



IIG WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

whom lie bad come upon so unexpectedly. And besides, lie wanted 
to go home, and be with his mother at lunch-time. Yet he could 
not leave her alone. 

" It is right to hope for the best about everybod)', and not to 
expect the worst. This sounds like a truism, but it has comforted 
me before now, and some day you'll find it useful. One has always 
to try to think more of others than of oneself, and it is best not to 
prejudge people on the bad side. My sermons aren't long, are they? 
Have they given you an appetite for lunch ? Sermons always make 
me hungry, I know." 

He appeared to be waiting for her to get up and come along with 
him, as indeed he was. But he meant her to perceive that he should 
not leave her ; so she rose up languidly, too languid to say how 
much she should prefer being left alone, if he would only go away 
without her. She was very weak, and stumbled over the straggling 
root of a tree that projected across the path. He, watchful though 
silent, saw this stumble, and putting out his hand held her up from 
falling. He still held her hand when the occasion was past ; this 
little physical failure impressed on his heart how young and helpless 
she was, and he yearned to her, remembering the passion of sorrow 
in which he had found her, and longing to be of some little tender 
bit of comfort to her, before they parted — before their tete-a-tete 
walk was merged in the general familiarity of the household life. 
Yet he did not know what to say. 

" You will have thought me hard," he burst out at length, as 
they were nearing the drawing-room windows and the garden-door. 
" I never can manage to express wliat I feel — somehow I always fall 
to philosophizing — but I am sorry far you. Yes, I am ; it's beyond 
my power to help you, as far as altering facts goes, but I can feel for 
you, in a way which it's best not to talk about, for it oan do no good. 
Remember how sorry I am for you ! I shall often be thinking of you, 
though I daresay it's best not to talk about it again." 

She said, " I know you are sorry," under her breath, and then 
she broke away, and ran indoors, and upstairs to the solitude of her 
own room. He went straight to his mother, who was sitting before 
the untastcd luncheon, as much annoyed by the mysterious un- 
punctuality of her visitor as she was capable of being with anything ; 
for she had heard that Mr. Gibson had been, and was gone, and she 
could not discover if he had left any message for her ; and her anxiety 
about her own health, which some people esteemed hypochondriacal, 



A CRISIS. 117 

always made her particularly craving for the wisdom which might fall 
from her doctor's lips. 

" Where have you heeu, lloger ? Where is Molly ? — Miss Gib- 
son, I mean," for she was careful to keep up a harrier of fonns 
between the young man and young woman who were thrown together 
in the same household. 

" I've been out dredging. (By the way, I left my net on the 
terrace walk.) I found Miss Gibson sitting there, crying as if her 
heart would break. Her fiither is going to be married again." 

" Married again ! You don't say so." 

" Yes, he is ; and she takes it very hardly, poor girl. Mother, 
I think if you could send some one to her with a glass of wine, a cup 
of tea, or something of that sort — she was very nearly fainting " 

" I'll go to her myself, poor child," said Mrs. Hamley, rising. 

" Indeed you must not," said he, laying his hand upon her arm, 
" We have kept you waiting already too long ; you are looking quite 
pale. Hammond can take it," he continued, ringing the bell. She 
sate down again, almost stunned with suq)rise. 

" Whom is he going to marry ?" 

" I don't know. I didn't ask, and she didn't tell me." 

" That's so like a man. Why, half the character of the affiiir lies 
m the question of who it is that he is going to marry," 

" I daresay I ought to have asked. But somehow I'm not a 
good one on such occasions. I was as sony as could be for her, and 
yet I couldn't tell what to say." 

" What did you say ? " 

" I gave her the best advice in my power." 

" Advice ! you ought to have comforted her. Poor little 
Molly ! " 

" I think that if advice is good it's the best comfort." v 

" That depends on what you mean by advice. Hush ! hero 
she is." 

To their surprise, Molly came in, trying hard to look as usual. 
She had bathed her eyes, and arranged her hair ; and was making a 
great struggle to keep from crying, and to bring her voice into order. 
She was unwilling to distress Mrs. Hamley by the sight of pain and 
suffering. She did not know that she was following Roger's in- 
junction to think more of others than of herself — but so she was. 
Mrs. Hamley was not sure if it was wise in her to begin on the piece 
of news she had just heard from her son ; but she was too full of it 



118 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

herself to talk of anything else. " So I hear your father is going to 
be married, my dear ? May I ask whom it is to ? " 

" Mrs. Kirkpatriek. I think she was governess a long time ago 
at the Countess of Cumnor's. She stays with them a great deal, 
and they call her Clare, and I believe they are very fond of her." 
Molly tried to speak of her future stepmother in the most favourable 
manner she knew how. 

" I think I've heard of her. Then she is not veiy young ? 
That's as it should be. A widow too. Has she any family ?" 

" One girl, I believe. But I know so little about her ! " 

Molly was very near crying again. 

" Never mind, my dear. That will all come in good time. 
Eoger, you've hardly eaten anything ; where are you going ?" 

" To fetch my dredging-net. It's full of things I don't want to 
lose. Besides, I never eat much, as a general thing." The truth 
was partly told, not all. He thought he had better leave the other 
two alone. His mother had such sweet power of sympathy, that she 
would draw the sting out of the girl's heart in a tete-a-tete. As 
soon as he was gone, Molly lifted up her poor swelled eyes, and, 
looking at Mrs. Hamley, she said, — " He was so good to me. I 
mean to try and remember all he said." 

" I'm glad to hear it, love ; very glad. From what he told me, I 
was afraid he had been giving j'ou a little lecture. He has a good 
heart, but he isn't so tender in his manner as Osborne. Koger is a 
little rough sometimes." 

" Then I like roughness. It did me good. It made me feel 
how badly — oh, Mrs. Hamley, I did behave so badly to papa this 
morning." 

She rose up and threw herself into Mrs. Hamley's arms, and 
sobbed upon her breast. Her sorrow was not now for the fact that 
her father was going to be married again, but for her own ill- 
behaviour. 

If Roger was not tender in words, he was in deeds. Unreasonably 
and possibly exaggerated as Molly's grief had appeared to him, it 
was real sufiering to her ; and he took some pains to lighten it, in 
his o^vTi way, which was characteristic enough. That evening he 
adjusted his microscope, and put the treasures he had collected in 
his morning's ramble on a little table ; and then he asked his mother 
to come and admire. Of course Molly came too, and this was what 
he had intended. He tried to interest her in his pursuit, cherished 



A cmsis. 119 

her first little morsel of curiosity, aud nursed it into a very proper 
desire for further information. Then he brought out hooks on the 
subject, and translated the slightly pompous and technical language 
into homely every-day speech. Molly had come down to dinner, 
wondering how the long hours till bedtime would ever pass away : 
hours during which she must not speak on the one thing that 
would be occupying her mind to the exclusion of all others ; for she 
was afi-aid that already she had wearied Mrs. Hamley with it during 
their afternoon tete-d-tete. But prayers and bedtime came long 
before she expected ; she had been refreshed by a new current of 
thought, and she was very thankful to Eoger. Aud now there was 
to-morrow to come, and a confession of penitence to be made to her 
father. 

But Mr. Gibson did not want speech or words. He was not 
fond of expressions of feeling at any time, and perhaps, too, he felt 
that the less said the better on a subject about which it was evident 
that his daughter and he were not thoroughly and impulsively in 
harmony. He read her repentance in her eyes ; he saw how much 
she had suffered ; and he had a sharp pang at his heart in consequence. 
And he stopped her from speaking out her regret at her behaviour 
the day before, by a " There, there, that will do. I know all you 
want to say. I know my little Molly — my silly little goosey — better 
than she knows herself. I've brought you an invitation. Lady 
Cumnor wants you to go and spend next Thursday at the Towers ! " 

" Do you wish me to go ? " said she, her heart sinking. 

" I wish you and Hyacinth to become better acquainted — to learn 
to love each other." 

" Hyacinth ! " said Molly, entirely bewildered. 

" Yes ; Hyacinth ! It's the silliest name I ever heard of; but 
it's hers, and I must call her by it. I can't bear Clare, vhich 
is what my lady and all the family at the Towers call her ; and 
' Mrs. Kirkpatrick ' is formal and nonsensical too, as she'll change 
her name so soon." 

" When, papa ?" asked Molly, feeling as if she were living in a 
strange, unknown world. 

" Not till after Michaelmas." And then, continuing on his own 
thoughts, he added, "And the worst is, she's gone and perpetuated 
her own affected name by having her daughter called after her. 
Cynthia ! One thinks of the moon, and the man in the moon with 
his bundle of faggots. I'm thankful you're plain Molly, child." 



120 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

*' How old is she — Cyntliia, I mean ?" 

"Ay, get accustomed to the name. I should think Cynthia 
Kirkpatrick was about as old as you are. She's at school in France, 
picking up airs and graces. She's to come home for the wedding, so 
you'll he able to get acquainted with her then ; though, I think, she's 
to go back again for another half-year or so." 



( 121 ) 



CIL^PTER XI. 

MAKING FRIENDSHIP. 

Mr. Gibson believed that C\Titliia Kirkpatrick was to return to 
England to be present at her mother's wedding ; but Mrs. Kirkpatrick 
had no such intention. She was not what is commonly called a 
woman of determination ; but somehow what she disliked she avoided, 
and what she liked she tried to do, or to have. So although in the 
conversation, which she had already led to, as to the when and the 
how she was to be mamed, she had listened quietly to Mr. Gibson's 
proposal that Molly and Cynthia should be the two bridesmaids, still 
she had felt how disagreeable it would be to her to have her young 
daughter flashing out her beauty by the side of the faded bride, her 
mother ; and as the further arrangements for the wedding became 
more definite, she saw further reasons in her own mind for Cynthia's 
remaining quietly at her school at Boulogne. 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick had gone to bed that first night of her engage- 
ment to Mr. Gibson, fully anticipating a speedy mamage. She 
looked to it as a release from the thraldom of keeping school ; keeping 
an unprofitable school, with barely pupils enough to pay for house- 
rent and taxes, food, washing, and the requisite masters. She^aw 
no reason for ever going back to Ashcombe, except to wind up her 
afiairs, and to pack up her clothes. She hoped that Mr. Gibson's 
ardour would be such that he would press on the marriage, and urge 
her never to resume her school drudgeiy, but to relinquish it now and 
for ever. She even made up a very pretty, very passionate speech 
for him in her own mind ; quite sufficiently strong to prevail upon 
her, and to overthrow the scruples which she felt she ought to have, 
at telling the parents of her pupils that she did not intend to resume 
school, and that they must find another place of education for their 
daughters, in the last week but one of the midsummer holidays. 



122 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

It was rather like a douche of cokl water on Mrs. Kirkpatrick's 
plans, when the next morning at breakfast Lady Cumnor began to 
decide upon the arrangements and duties of the two middle-aged 
lovers. 

" Of course you can't give up j'our school all at once, Clare. 
The wedding can't be before Christmas, but that will do very well. 
We shall all be down at the Towers ; and it will be a nice amusement 
for the children to go over to Ashcombe, and see you married." 

"I think — I am afraid — I don't believe Mr. Gibson will like 
waiting so long ; men are so impatient under these circumstances." 

" Oh, nonsense ! Lord Cumnor has recommended you to his 
tenants, and I'm sure he wouldn't like them to be put to any incon- » 
venience. Mr. Gibson will see that in a moment. He's a man of 
sense, or else he wouldn't be our family doctor. Now, what are you 
going to do about your little girl ? Have you fixed yet ?" 

"No. Yesterday there seemed so little time, and when one is 
agitated it is so difficult to think of anything. Cynthia is nearly 
eighteen, old enough to go out as a governess, if he wishes it, but I . 
don't think he will. He is so generous and kind." 

'• Well ! I must give you time to settle some of your affairs to- 
day. Don't waste it in sentiment, you're too old for that. Come to 
a clear understanding w'ith each other ; it will be for your happiness 
in the long run." 

So they did come to a clear understanding about one or two things. 
To Mrs. Kirkpatrick's dismay, she found that Mr. Gibson had no 
more idea than Lady Cumnor of her breaking faith with the parents 
of her pupils. Though he really was at a serious loss as to what 
was to become of Molly until she could be under the protection of 
his new wife at her own home, and though his domestic worries 
teased him more and more every day, he was too honourable to think 
of persuading Mrs. Kirkpatrick to give up school a week sooner than 
was right for his sake. He did not even perceive how easy the 
task of persuasion would be ; with all her winning wiles she could 
scarcely lead him to feel impatience for the wedding to take place at 
Michaelmas. 

" I can hardly tell you what a comfort and relief it will be to me, 
Hyacinth, when you are once my wife — the mistress of my home — 
poor little Molly's mother and protector; but I wouldn't interfere 
with your previous engagements for the world. It wouldn't be 
right." 



MAKING FRIENDSHIP. 123 

" Thank you, my own love. How good you are ! So many men 
would think only of their own wishes and interests ! I'm sure the 
parents of my dear pupils will admire you — will be quite surprised at 
your consideration for their interests." 

" Don't tell them, then. I hate being admired. Why shouldn't 
you say it is your wish to keep on your school till they've had time 
to look out for another ? " 

" Because it isn't," said she, daring all. " I long to be making 
you happy ; I want to make your home a place of rest and comfort to 
you ; and I do so wish to cherish your sweet Molly, as I hope to do, 
when I come to be her mother. I can't take virtue to myself which 
doesn't belong to me. If I have to speak for myself, I shall say, 
* Good people, find a school for your daughters by Michaelmas, — for 
after that time I must go and make the happiness of others.' I can't 
bear to think of your long rides in November — coming home wet at 
night with no one to take care of you. Oh ! if you leave it to me, 
I shall advise the parents to take their daughters away from the care 
of one whose heart will be absent. Though I couldn't consent to 
any time before Michaelmas — that wouldn't be fair or right, and I'm 
sure you wouldn't urge me — you are too good," 

" Well, if you think that they will consider we have acted 
uprightly by them, let it be Michaelmas with all my heart. What 
does Lady Cumnor say ? " 

" Oh ! I told her I was afraid you wouldn't like waiting, because 
of your difficulties with your servants, and because of Molly — it 
would be so desirable to enter on the new relationship with her as 
soon as possible." 

" To be sure ; so it would. Poor child ! I'm afraid the intelli- 
gence of my engagement has rather startled her." 

"Cynthia will feel it deeply, too," said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Un- 
willing to let her daughter be behind Mr. Gibson's in sensibility and 
affection. 

" We will have her over to the wedding! She and Molly shall 
be bridesmaids," said Mr. Gibson, in the unguarded warmth of his 
lieart. 

This plan did not quite suit Mrs. Kirkpatrick : but she thought 
it best not to oppose it, until she had a presentable excuse to give, 
and perhaps also some reason would naturally arise out of future 
circumstances ; so at this time she only smiled, and softly pressed the 
hand she held in hers. 



124 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

It is a question whether Mrs. lurkpatrick or Molly wished the 
most for the day to be over which they were to spend together at the 
Towers. Mrs. Kirkpatrick was rather weary of girls as a class. All 
the trials of her life were connected with girls in some way. She 
was very young when she first became a governess, and had been 
worsted in her struggles with her pupils, in the first place she ever 
went to. Her elegance of appearance and manner, and her accom- 
plishments, more than her character and acquirements, had rendered 
it easier for her than for most to obtain good " situations; " and she 
had been absolutely petted in some ; but still she was constantly 
encountering naughty or stubboi-n, or over-conscientious, or severe- 
judging, or curious and observant girls. And again, before Cynthia 
was born, she had longed for a boy, thinking it possible that if some 
three or four intervening relations died, he might come to be a 
baronet ; and instead of a son, lo and behold it was a daughter ! 
Nevertheless, with all her dislike to girls in the abstract as "the 
plagues of her life " (and her aversion ^^-as not diminished by the fact 
of her having kept a school for " young ladies " at Ashcombe), she 
really meant to be as kind as she could be to her new step -daughter, 
whom she remembered principally as a black-haired, sleepy child, in 
whose eyes she had read admiration of herself. Mrs. Kirkpatrick 
accepted Mr. Gibson principally because she was tired of the 
struggle of earning her own livelihood ; but she liked him personally 
— nay, she even loved him in her torpid way, and she intended to be 
good to his daughter, though she felt as if it would have been easier 
for her to have been good to his son. 

Molly was bracing herself up in her way too. "I will be like 
Harriet. I will think of others. I won't think of myself," she kept 
repeating all the way to the Towers. But there was no selfishness in 
wishing that the day was come to an end, and that she did very 
heartily. Mrs. Hamley sent her thither in the carriage, v/hich was 
to wait and bring her back at night. Mrs. Hamley wanted Molly to 
make a favourable impression, and she sent for her to come and show 
herself before she set out. 

" Don't put on your silk gown — your white muslin will look the 
nicest, my dear." 

" Not my silk ? it is quite new ! I had it to come here." 

" Still, I think your white muslin suits you the best." ' Any- 
thing but that horrid plaid silk ' was the thought in lilrs. Hamlcy's 
mind ; and, thanks to her, Molly set ofi" for the Towers, looking a 




Thk Nf-w Mamtja. 



MAKING FKIENDSniP. 125 

little quaint, it is true, but thoroughly lady-like, if she was old- 
fashioucd. Her father was to meet her there ; but he had been 
detained, and she had to face Mrs. Kirkpatrick by herself, the 
recollection of her last day of misery at the Towers fresh in her 
mind as if it had been yesterday. Mrs. Kirkpatrick was as caressing 
as could be. She held Molly's hand in hers, as they sate together 
in the library, after the first salutations were over. She kept stroking 
it from time to time, and purring out inarticulate sounds of loving 
satisfaction, as she gazed in the blushing face. 

" What eyes ! so like your dear father's ! How we shall love 
each other — shan't we, darling ? For his sake ! " 

" I'll try," said Molly, bravely; and then she could not finish her 
sentence. 

" And you've just got the same beautiful black curling hair! " 
said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, softly lifting one of Molly's curls from off her 
white temple. 

" Papa's hair is growing grey," said Molly. 
" Is it ? I never see it. I never shall see it. He will always 
be to me the handsomest of men." 

Mr. Gibson was really a very handsome man, and Molly was 
pleased with the compliment ; but she could not help saying, — 

" Still he will grow old, and his hair will grow grey. I think he 
will be just as handsome, but it won't be as a young man." 

"Ah! that's just it, love. He'll always be handsome; some 
people always are. And he is so fond of you, dear." Molly's colour 
flashed into her face. She did not want an assurance of her own 
father's love from this strange woman. She could not help being 
angry ; all she could do was to keep silent. " You don't know how 
he speaks of you ; ' his little treasure,' as he calls you. I'm almost 
jealous sometimes." v 

Molly took her hand away, and her heart began to harden ; these 
speeches were so discordant to her. But she set her teeth together, 
and " tried to be good." 

" We must make him so happy. I'm afraid he has had a great 
deal to annoy him at home ; but we will do away with all that now. 
You must tell me," seeing the cloud in Molly's eyes, ".what he likes 
and dislikes, for of course you will know." 

Molly's face cleared a little ; of course she did know. She had 
not watched and loved him so long without believing that she under- 
stood him better than any one else : though how he had come to like 



126 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick enougli to v,dsli to many her, was an unsolved 
problem tlitit she unconsciously put aside as inexplicable. Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick went on, — " All men have their fancies and antipathies, 
even the wisest. I have known some gentlemen annoyed beyond 
measure by the merest tiifles ; leaving a door open, or spilling tea in 
their saucers, or a shawl crookedly put on. Why," continued she, 
lowering her voice, " I know of a house to which Lord HoUingford 
will never be asked again because he didn't wipe his shoes on both 
the mats in the hall ! Now you must tell me what j'our dear father 
dislikes most in these fanciful ways, and I shall take care to avoid it. 
You must be my little friend and helper in pleasing him. It will be 
such a pleasure to me to attend to his slightest fancies. About my 
dress, too — what colours does he like best ? I want to do everything 
in my power with a view to his approval." 

Molly was gratified by all this, and began to think that really, 
after all, perhaps her father had done well for himself; and that if 
she could help towards his new happiness, she ought to do it. So 
she tried very conscientiously to think over Mr. Gibson's wishes 
and ways ; to ponder over what annoyed him the most in his 
household. 

" I think," said she, "papa isn't particular about many things ; 
but I think our not having the dinner quite punctual — quite ready 
for him when he comes in, fidgets him more than anything. You 
see, he has often had a long ride, and there is another long ride to 
come, and he has only half-an-hour — sometimes only a quartei' — to 
eat his dinner in." 

"Thank you, my own love. Punctuality! Yes; it's a great 
thing in a household. It's what I've had to enforce with my j'oung 
ladies at Ashcombe. No wonder poor dear Mr. Gibson has been dis- 
pleased at his dinner not being ready, and he so hard-worked ! " 

"Papa doesn't care what he has, if it's only ready. He would 
take bread-and-cheese, if cook would only send it in instead of 
dinner." 

" Bread-and-cheese ! Does Mr. Gibson eat cheese ? " 

"Yes; he's very fond of it," said Molly, innocently. "I've 
known him eat toasted cheese when he has been too tired to fancy 
anything else." 

" Oh ! but, my dear, we must change all that. I shouldn't like 
to think of your father eating cheese ; it's such a strong-smelling, 
coarse kind of thing. We must get him a cook who can toss him up 



I 



MAKING FRIENDSHIP. 127 

au omelette, or somotliing clcgjint. Cheese is only fit for the 
kitchen." 

" Papa is very fond of it," persevered Molly. 

" Oh ! hut we will cure him of that. I couldn't bear the smell 
of cheese ; and I'm sure he would be sorry to annoy me." 

Molly was silent ; it did not do, she found, to be too minute in 
telling about her father's likes or dislikes. She had better leave them 
for Mrs. Kirkpatrick to find out for herself. It was an awkward 
pause ; each was trying to find something agreeable to say. Molly 
spoke at length. "Please! I should so like to know something 
about Cj'nthia — your daughter." 

" Yes, call her Cynthia. It's a pretty name, isn't it ? Cj^nthia 
Kirkpatrick. Not so pretty, though, as my old name, Hyacinth 
Clare. People used to say it suited me so well. I must show you 
au acrostic a gentleman — he was a lieutenant in the 53rd — made 
upon it. Oh ! we shall have a great deal to say to each other, I 
foresee ! " 

" But about Cynthia ? " 

"Oh, yes! about dear Cjoithia. What do you want to know, 
my dear? " 

" Papa said she was to live with us ! When will she come ? " 

" Oh, was it not sweet of your kind father ? I thought of 
nothing else but Cynthia's going out as a governess when she had 
completed her education ; she has been brought up for it, and has 
had great advantages. But good dear Mr. Gibson wouldn't hear of 
it. He said yesterday that she must come and live with us when she 
left school." 

" When will she leave school ? " 

" She went for two years. I don't think I must let her leave 
before next summer. She teaches English as well as learning French. 
Next summer she shall come home, and then shan't we be a happy 
little quartette ? " 

" I hope so," said Molly. " But she is to come to the wedding, 
isn't she ? " she went on timidly, not knowing how far Mrs. Kirk- 
patrick would like the allusion to her marriage. 

" Your father has begged for her to come ; but we must think 
about it a little more before quite fixing it. The journey is a great 
expense ! " 

" Is she like you ? I do so want to see her." 

" She is very handsome, people say. In the bright -coloured 



128 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

style, — perliaios something like what I was. But I like the dark- 
haired foreign kind of beauty best — just now," touching Molly's hair, 
and looking at her with an expression of sentimental remembrance. 

" Does Cynthia — is she very clever and accomplished ? " asked 
Molly, a little afraid lest the answer should remove Miss Kirkpatrick 
at too great a distance from her. 

" She ought to be ; I've paid ever so much money to have her 
taught by the best masters. But you will see her before long, and 
I'm afraid we must go now to Lady Cumnor. It has been very 
charming having you all to myself, but I know Lady Cumnor will be 
expecting us now, and she was very curious to see you, — my future 
daughter, as she calls you." 

Molly followed Mrs. Kirkpatrick into the momiug-room, where 
Lady Cumnor was sitting — a little annoyed, because, having com- 
pleted her toilette earlier than usual, Clare had not been aware by 
instinct of the fact, and so had not brought Molly Gibson for 
inspection a quarter of an hour before. Every small occurrence is 
an event in the day of a convalescent invalid, and a little while ago 
Molly would have met with patronizing appreciation, where now she 
had to encounter criticism. Of Lady Cumnor's character as an 
individual she knew nothing ; she only knew she was going to see 
and be seen by a live countess; nay, more, by ^^thc countess" of 
Hollingford. 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick led her into Lady Cumnor's presence by the 
hand, and in presenting her, said, — " My dear little daughter. Lady 
Cumnor ! " 

"Now, Clare, don't let me have nonsense. She is not your 
daughter yet, and may never be, — I believe that one-third of the 
engagements I have heard of, have never come to marriages. Miss 
Gibson, 1 am very glad to see you, for your iiith(3r's sake ; when I 
know you better, I hope it will be for j'our own." 

Molly very heartily hoped that she might never be known any 
better by the stern-looking lady who sate so uprightly in the easy 
chair, prepared for lounging, and which therefore gave all the more 
effect to the stiff attitude. Lady Cumnor luckily took Molly's 
silence for acquiescent humility, and went on speaking after a further 
little pause of inspection. 

" Yes, yes, I like her looks, Clare. You may make something 
of her. It will be a great advantage to you, my dear, to have a lady 
who has trained up several young people of quality always about you 



MAKIXO FRIENDSmr. 129 

just at the time ^vlicu you are growing up. I'll tell you what, 
Clare!" — a sudden thought striking her, — "you and she must 
become better acquainted — you know nothing of each other at 
present ; you are not to be married till Christmas, and Avhat could 
be better than that she should go back with you to Ashcombe ! 
She would be with you constantly, and have the advantage of the 
companionship of your young people, which would be a good thing 
for an only child ! It's a capital plan ; I'm very glad I thought 
of it ! " 

Now it would be difficult to say which of Lady Cumnor's two 
hearers was the most dismayed at the idea which had taken posses- 
sion of her. Mrs. Kirkpatrick had no fancy for being encumbered 
with a step-daughter before her time. If Molly came to be an 
inmate of her house, farewell to many little background economies, 
and a still more serious farewell to many little indulgences, that 
were innocent enough in themselves, but which Mrs. Ivirkpatrick's 
former life had caused her to look upon as sins to be concealed : the 
dirty dog's-eared delightful novel from the Ashcombe circulating 
library, the leaves of which she turned over with a pair of scissors ; 
the lounging-chair which she had for use at her own home, straight 
and upright as she sate now in Lady Cumnor's presence ; the dainty 
morsel, savoury and small, to which she treated herself for her own 
solitary supper, — all these and many other similarly pleasant things 
would have to be foregone if Molly came to be her pupil, parlour- 
boarder, or visitor, as Lady Cumnor was planning. One — two things 
Clare was instinctively resolved upon : to be married at Michaelmas, 
and not to have Molly at Ashcombe. But she smiled as sweetly as 
if the plan proposed was the most charming project iuAhe world, 
while all the time her poor brains were beating about in every bush 
for the reasons or excuses of which she should make use at some 
future time. Molly, however, saved her all this trouble. It was a 
question which of the three was the most sui-prised by the words 
which burst out of her lips. She did not mean to speak, but her 
heart was very full, and almost before she was aware of her thought 
she heard herself saying, — 

" I don't think it would be nice at all. I mean, my lady, that I 
should dislike it very much ; it would be taking me away from papa 
just these very few last months. I will like you," she went on, her 
eyes full of tears ; and, turning to Mrs. Kirkpatrick, she put her 
hand into her future stepmother's with the prettiest and most 
Vol. I. 9 



130 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

trustful action. " I "uill tiy Lard to love you, and to do all I can 
to make you happy ; but you must not take me away from papa just 
this veiy last bit of time that I shall have him." 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick fondled the hand thus placed in hers, and was 
grateful to the girl for her outspoken opposition to Lady Cumnor's 
I)lan. Clare was, however, exceedingly unwilling to back up Molly 
by any words of her own until Lady Cumnor had spoken and given 
the cue. But there was something in Molly's little speech, or in 
her straightforward manner, that amused instead of irritating Lady 
Cumnor in her present mood. Perhaps she was tired of the silkiness 
with which she had been shut up for so many days. 

She put up her glasses, and looked at them both before speaking. 
Then she said — " Upon my word, young lady ! Why, Clare, you've 
got your work before you ! Not but what there is a good deal of 
ti'uth in what she says. It must be very disagreeable to a girl 
of her age to have a stepmother coming in betAveen her father and 
herself, whatever may be the advantages to her in the long run." 

Molly almost felt as if she could make a friend of the stiff old 
countess, for her clearness of sight as to the plan proposed being a 
trial ; but she was afraid, in her new-born desire of thinking for 
others, of Mrs. Kirkpatrick being hurt. She need not have feared 
as far as outward signs went, for the smile was still on that lady's 
pretty rosy lips, and the soft fondling of her hand never stopped. 
Lady Cumnor was more interested in ]\Iolly the more she looked at 
her ; and her gaze was pretty steady through her gold-rimmed eye- 
glasses. She began a sort of catechism ; a string of very straight- 
forward questions, such as any lady under the rank of countess might 
have scrupled to ask, but which were not unkindly meant. 

" You are sixteen, are you not ? " 

" No ; I am seventeen. My birthday was three weeks ago." 

" Yery much the same thing, I should think. Have you ever 
been to school ?" 

" No, never ! Miss Ejto has taught me everj-thing I know." 

" Umph ! Miss Eyre was your governess, I suppose ? I should 
not have thought your father could have afforded to keep a governess. 
But of course he must know his own affairs best." 

" Certainly, my lady," replied Molly, a little touchy as to any 
reflections on her father's wisdom. 

" You say ' certainly ! ' as if it was a matter of course that every 
one should know their o-mi affairs best. You are very young. Miss 



MAKING FEIENDSHIP. 131 

Gibson — very. You'll know better [before you come to my age. 
And I suppose you've been taugbt music, and the use of globes, and 
French, and all the usual accomplishments, since you have had 
a governess ? I never heard of such nonsense ! " she went on, 
lashing herself up. " An only daughter ! If there had been half-a- 
dozen, there might have been some sense in it." 

Molly did not speak, but it was by a strong effort that she kept 
silence. Mrs. Kirkpatrick fondled her hand more perseveringly than 
ever, hoping thus to express a sufficient amount of sympathy to 
prevent her from saying anything injudicious. But the caress had 
become wearisome to Molly, and only irritated her nerves. She 
took her hand out of Mrs. Kirkpatrick' s, with a slight manifestation 
of impatience. 

It was, perhaps, fortunate for the general peace that just at this 
moment Mr. Gibson was announced. It is odd enough to see how 
the entrance of a person of the opposite sex into an assemblage 
of either men or women calms down the little discordances and the 
disturbance of mood. It was the case now ; at Mr. Gibson's 
entrance my lady took off her glasses, and smoothed her brow ; 
Mrs. Kirkpatrick managed to get up a very becoming blush, and 
as for Molly, her face glowed with delight, and the white teeth 
and pretty dimples came out like sunlight on a landscape. 

Of course, after the first greeting, my lady had to have a private 
interview with her doctor; and Molly and her future stepmother 
wandered about in the gardens with their arms round each other's 
waists, or hand in hand, like two babes in the wood ; Mrs. Kirk- 
patrick active in such endearments, Molly passive, and feeling within 
herself very shy and strange ; for she had that particular kind of shy 
modesty which makes any one uncomfortable at receiving caresses 
from a person towards whom the heart does not go forth with^an 
impulsive welcome. 

Then came the early dinner ; Lady Cumnor having hers in the 
quiet of her own room, to which she was still a prisoner. Once or 
twice during the meal, the idea crossed Molly's mind that her father 
disliked his position as a middle-aged lover being made so evident to 
the men in waiting as it was by Mrs. Kirkpatrick's affectionate 
speeches and innuendos. He tried to banish every tint of pink 
sentimentalism from the conversation, and to confine it to matter of 
fact ; and when Mrs. Kirkpatrick would persevere in referring to 
such things as had a bearing on the future relationship of the 

9—2 



132 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

parties, he insisted upon viewing tliem in the most matter-of-fact 
way ; and this continued even after the men had left the room. An 
old rhyme Molly had heard Betty use, would keep running in her 
head and making her uneasy, — 

Two is compan}-, 
Three is truinperv. 

But where could she go to in that strange house ? What ought she 
to do ? She was roused from this fit of wonder and ahstraction l)y 
her father's saying — " What do you think of this plan of Lady 
Cumnor's ? She says she was advising you to have Molly as a 
visitor at Ashcomhe until we are married." 

Mrs. Kirkpatrick's countenance fell. If only Molly would he so 
good as to testify again, as she had done before Lady Cumnor ! But 
if the proposal was made by her father, it would come to his daughter 
from a different quarter than it had done from a strange lady, be she 
ever so great. Molly did not say anything ; she only looked pale, 
and wistful, and anxious. Mrs. Ivirkpatrick had to speak for 
herself. 

" It would be a charming plan, only — Well! we know why we 
would rather not have it, don't we, love ? And we won't tell papa, 
for fear of making him vain. No ! I think I must leave her with 
you, dear Mr. Gibson, for a tete-a-tete for these last few weeks. It 
would be cruel to take her away." 

" But you know, my dear, I told you of the reason why it does 
not do to have Molly at home just at present," said Mr. Gibson, 
eagerly. For the more he knew of his future wife, the more he felt 
it necessary to remember that, with all her foibles, she would be able 
to stand between Molly and any such adventures as that which had 
occuiTed lately with Mr. Coxe ; so that one of the good reasons for 
the step he had taken was always present to him, while it had 
slipped off the smooth surface of Mrs. Kirkpatrick's mirror-like mind 
without leaving any impression. She now recalled it, on seeing 
Mr. Gibson's anxious face. 

But what were Molly's feelings at these last words of her father's ? 
She had been sent from home for some reason, kept a secret fi'om 
her, but told to this strange woman. Was there to be perfect con- 
fidence between these two, and she to be for ever shut out ? Was 
she, and what concerned her — though how she did not know — to be 
discussed between them for the future, and she to be kept in the 



MAKING FRIENDSHIP. 133 

(lark ? A bitter paug of jealousy made lier heart- sick. Slic might as 
well go to Ashcombe, or anywhere else, now. Thinking more of 
others' happiness than of her own was very fine ; but did it not 
mean giving up her very individuality, quenching all the warm love, 
the true desires, that made her herself? Yet in this deadness lay 
her only comfort ; or so it seemed. Wandering in such mazes, she 
hardly knew how the conversation went on ; a third was indeed 
"trumpery," where there was entire confidence between the two 
who were company, from which the other was shut out. She was 
positively unhappy, and her father did not appear to see it ; he was 
absorbed with his new plans and his new wife that was to be. But 
he did notice it ; and was truly sorry for his little girl : only he 
thought that there was a greater chance for the future harmony of 
the household, if he did not lead Molly to define her present feelings 
by putting them into words. It was his general plan to repress 
emotion by not showing the sympathy he felt. Yet, when he had 
to leave, he took Molly's hand in his, and held it there, in such a 
different manner to that in which Mrs. Kirkpatrick had done ; and 
his voice softened to his child as he bade her good-by, and added the 
words (most unusual to him), " God bless you, child ! " 

Molly had held up all the day bravely ; she had not shown anger, 
or repugnance, or annoyance, or regret ; but when once more by 
herself in the Hamley carriage, she burst into a passion of tears, 
and cried her fill till she reached the village of Hamley. Then she 
tried in vain to smooth her face into smiles, and do away with the 
other signs of her grief. She only hoped she could run upstairs to 
her own room without notice, and bathe her eyes in cold water 
before she was seen. But at the hall-door she was caught by the 
squire and Roger coming in from an after-dinner stroll in the garden, 
and hospitably anxious to help her to alight. Roger saw the^tate 
of things in an instant, and saying, — 

" My mother has been looking for you to come back for this last 
hour," he led the way to the drawing-room. But Mrs. Hamley was 
not there ; the squire had stopped to speak to the coachman about 
one of the horses ; they two were alone. Roger said, — 

" I am afi'aid you have had a very trying day. I have thought 
of you several times, for I know how awkward these new relations 
are." 

" Thank you," said she, her lips trembling, and on the point of 
crying again. *' I did try to remember what you said, and to think 



134 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

more of others, but it is so difficult sometimes ; you know it is, don't 
you ? " 

" Yes," said he, gravely. He was gratified by her simple con- 
fession of having borne his words of advice in mind, and tried to act 
up to them. He was but a very young man, and he was honestly 
flattered ; perhaps this led him on to offer more advice, and this 
time it was evidently mingled with sympathy. He did not want to 
draw out her confidence, which he felt might very easily be done 
with such a simple girl ; but he wished to help her by giving her 
a few of the principles on which he had learnt to rely. "It is 
difficult," he went on, *' but by-and-by you will be so much happier 
for it." 

" No, I shan't'." said Molly, shaking her head. " It will be 
very dull when I shall have killed myself, as it were, and live only 
in trying to do, and to be, as other people like. I don't see any end 
to it. I might as well never have lived. And as for the happiness 
you speak of, I shall never be happy again." 

There was an unconscious depth in what she said, that Eoger 
did not know how to answer at the moment ; it was easier to address 
himself to the assertion of the girl of seventeen, that she should 
never be happy again. 

" Nonsense : perhaps in ten years' time you will be looking back 
on this trial as a very light one — who knows ? " 

" I daresay it seems foolish ; perhaps all our earthly trials will 
appear foolish to us after a while ; perhaps they seem so now to 
angels. But we are ourselves, you know, and this is noiv, not some 
time to come, a long, long way ofi'. And we are not angels, to be 
comforted by seeing the ends for which everything is sent." 

She had never spoken so long a sentence to him before ; and 
when she had said it, though she did not take her eyes away from 
his, as they stood steadily looking at each other, she blushed a little ; 
she could not have told why. Nor did he tell himself why a sudden 
pleasure came over him as he gazed at her simple expressive face — 
and for a moment lost the sense of what she was saying, in the 
sensation of pity for her sad earnestness. In an instant more he 
was himself again. Only it is pleasant to the wisest, most reason- 
able youth of one or two and twenty to find himself looked up to as a 
Mentor by a girl of seventeen. 

" I know, I understand. Yes : it is now we have to do with. 
Don't let us go into metaphysics." Molly opened her eyes wide at 



MAKIKG FRIENDSUIP. 135 

this. Had slio beeu talking metapliysics without kuowiug it ? 
*' One looks forward to a mass of trials, wliicli will only have to be 
encountered one by one, little by little. Oh, here is my mother ! 
she will tell you better than I can." 

And the tete-a-tete was merged in a trio. j\Irs. Hamley lay 
down ; she had not been well all day — she had missed Molly, she 
said, — and now she wanted to hear of all the adventures that had 
occurred to the girl at the Towers. Molly sate on a stool close to 
the head of the sofa, and Roger, though at first he took up a book 
and tried to read that he might be no restraint, soon found his 
reading all a pretence : it was so interesting to listen to Molly's 
little narrative, and, besides, if he could give her any help in her 
time of need, was it not his duty to make himself acq^uainted with 
all the circumstances of her case '? 

And so they went on during all the remaining time of Molly's 
stay at Hamley. Mrs. Hamley sympathized, and liked to heai* 
details ; as the French say, her sympathy was given en detail, the 
squire's en ijros. He was very sorry for her evident grief, and 
almost felt guilty, as if he had had a share in bringing it about, by 
the mention he had made of the possibility of Mr. Gribson's marrying 
again, when first Molly came on her visit to them. He said to his 
wife more than once, — 

" 'Pon my word, now, I wish I'd never spoken those unlucky 
words that first day at dinner. Do you remember how she took 
them up ? It was like a prophecy of what was to come, now, wasn't 
it ? And she looked pale from that day, and I don't think she has 
ever fairly enjoyed her food since. I must take more care what I 
say for the future. Not but v/hat Gibson is doing the veiy best 
thing, both for himself and her, that he can do. I told him so only 
yesterday. But I'm very sorry for the little girl, though. It,wish 
I'd never spoken about it, that I do ! but it was like a prophecy, 
wasn't it ? " 

Roger tried hard to find out a reasonable and right method of 
comfort, for he, too, in his way, was sorry for the girl, who bravely 
struggled to be cheerful, in spite of her own private grief, for his 
mother's sake. He felt as if high principle and noble precept ought 
to perform an immediate work. But they do not, for there is always 
the unknown quantity of individual experience and feeling, which 
offer a tacit resistance, the amount incalculable by another, to all 
good counsel and high decree. But the bond between the Mentor 



136 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

and his Telemaclius strengthened eveiy day. He endeavoured to 
lead her out of morbid thought into interest in other than personal 
things ; and, naturally enough, his own objects of interest came 
readiest to hand. She felt that he did her good, she did not know 
•why or how ; but after a talk with him, she always fancied that she 
had got the clue to goodness and peace, v/hatever befell. 



( 137 ) 



CHAPTER XII. 

PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING. 

Meanwhile the love-affixirs between the middle-aged couple were 
prospering well, after a fashion ; after the fashion that they liked 
best, although it might probably have appeared dull and prosaic to 
younger people. Lord Cumnor had come down in great glee at the 
news he had heard from his wife at the Towers. He, too, seemed 
to think he had taken an active part in bringing about the match by 
only speaking about it. His first words on the subject to Lady 
Cumnor were, — 

"I told you so. Now didn't I say what a good, suitable affair 
this affair between Gibson and Clare would be ! I don't know when 
I have been so much pleased. You may despise the trade of match- 
maker, my lady, but I am very proud of it. After this, I shall go 
on looking out for suitable cases among the middle-aged people of 
my acquaintance. I shan't meddle with young folks, they are so apt 
to be fanciful ; but I have been so successful in this, that I do think 
it is good encouragement to go on." 

" Go on — with what ? " asked Lady Cumnor, drily. " Qh, 
planning ! " 

" You can't deny that I planned this match." 

" I don't think you are likely to do either much good or harm by 
planning," she replied, with cool, good sense. 

" It puts it into people's heads, my dear." 

" Yes, if you speak about your plans to them, of course it does. 
But in this case you never spoke to either Mr. Gibson or Clare, 
did you ? " 

All at once the recollection of how Clare had come upon the 
passage in Lord Cumnor's letter flashed on his lady, but she did not 



138 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

say anythiDg about it, but left lier busbanil to flouuder about as best 
he might. 

" No ! I never spoke to them ; of course not." 

" Then you must be strongly mesmeric, and your will acted upou 
theirs, if you are to take credit for any part in the affair," continued 
his pitiless wife. 

" I really can't say. It's no use looking back to what I said or 
did. I'm very well satisfied with it, and that's enough, and I mean 
to show them how much I'm pleased. I shall give Clare something 
towards her rigging out, and they shall have a breakfast at Ashcombe 
Manor-house. I'll write to Preston about it. When did you say 
they were to be married ? " 

" I think they'd better wait till Christmas, and I have told them 
so. It would amuse the children, going over to Ashcombe for the 
wedding ; and if it's bad weather during the holidays I'm always 
afraid of their finding it dull at the Towers. It's very different if 
it's a good frost, and they can go out skating and sledging in the 
park. But these last two years it has been so wet for them, poor 
dears ! " 

" And will the other poor dears be content to wait to make a 
holiday for your grandchildren ? ' To make a Roman holiday.' 
Pope, or somebody else, has a line of poetry like that. ' To make a 
Roman holiday,' " — he repeated, pleased with his unusual aptitude 
at quotation. 

" It's Byron, and it's nothing to do with the subject in hand. 
I'm surprised at your lordship's quoting Byron, — he was a very 
immoral poet." 

" I saw him take his oaths in the House of Lords," said Lord 
Cumnor, apologetically. 

" Well ! the less said about him the better," said Lady Cumnor, 
"I have told Clare that she had better not think of being married 
before Christmas : and it won't do for her to give up her school in a 
hurry either." 

But Clare did not intend to wait till Christmas ; and for this once 
she carried her point against the will of the countess, and without 
many words, or any open opposition. She had a harder task in 
setting aside Mr. Gibson's desire to have CjTithia over for the 
wedding, even if she went back to her school at Boulogne directly 
after the ceremony. At first she had said that it would be delightful, 
a charming plan ; only she feared that she must give up her own 



PllEPARING FOK THE WEDDIInG. 139 

wislies to have lier cliilcl near her at such a time, on account of the 
expense of the double jouruey. 

But Mr. Gibson, economical as he was in his habitual expenditure, 
had a really generous heart. He had already shown it, in entirely 
relinquishing his future wife's life-interest in the very small property 
the late Mr. Kirkpatrick had left, in favour of Cynthia ; while he 
arranged that she should come to his home as a daughter as soon as 
she left the school she was at. The life-interest was about thirty 
pounds a year. Now he gave Mrs. Kirkpatrick three five-pound 
notes, saying that he hoped they would do away with the objections 
to Cynthia's coming over to the wedding ; and at the time Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick felt as if they would, and caught the reflection of his 
strong wish, and fancied it was her own. If the letter could have 
been ^vritten and the money sent off that day while the reflected glow 
of afiection lasted, Cynthia would have been bridesmaid to her 
mother. But a hundred little interruptions came in the way of 
letter- wi'iting ; and the value aflixed to the money increased : money 
had been so much needed, so hardly earned in Mrs. Kirkpatrick's 
life ; while the perhaps necessary separation of mother and child had 
lessened the amount of afiection the former had to bestow. So she 
persuaded herself, afresh, that it would be unwise to disturb Cynthia 
at her studies ; to interrupt the fulfilment of her duties just after the 
semcstre had begun afresh ; and she wrote a letter to Madame 
Lefevre so well imbued with this persuasion, that an answer which 
was almost an echo of her words was returned, the sense of which 
being conveyed to Mr. Gibson, who was no great French scholar, 
settled the vexed question, to his moderate but unfeigned regret. 
But the fifteen pounds were not returned. Indeed, not merely that 
sum, but a great part of the hundi-ed which Lord Cumnor had given 
her for her trousseau, was required to pay ofi" debts at Ashcomb^ ; 
for the school had been anything but flourishing since Mrs. Erk- 
patrick had had it. It was very much to her credit that she pre- 
fen-ed clearing herself from debt to purchasing wedding finery. But 
it was one of the few points to be respected in Mrs. Kirkpatrick that 
she had always been careful in payment to the shops where she 
dealt ; it was a little sense of duty cropping out. Whatever other 
faults might arise from her superficial and flimsy character, she was 
always uneasy till she was out of debt. Yet she had no scruple in 
appropriating her future husband's money to her own use, when it 
was decided that it was not to be employed as he intended. What 



140 VaVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

new articles she bought for herself, were all such as would make a 
show, and an impression upon the ladies of Hollingford. She 
argued with herself that linen, and all under-clothing, would never 
be seen ; while she knew that every gown she had, would give rise 
to much discussion, and would be counted up in the little town. 

So her stock of underclothing was very small, and scarcely any 
of it new ; but it was made of dainty material, and was finely 
mended up by her deft fingers, many a night long after her pupils 
were in bed ; inwardly resohing all the time she sewed, that here- 
after some one else should do her plain-work. Indeed, many a little 
circumstance of former subjection to the will of others rose up before 
her during these quiet hours, as an endurance or a suffering never to 
occur again. So apt are people to look forward to a different kind 
of life from that to which they have been accustomed, as being free 
from care and trial ! She recollected how, one time during this very 
summer at the Towers, after she was engaged to Mr. Gibson, when 
she had taken above an hour to arrange her hair in some new mode 
carefully studied from Mrs. Bradley's fashion-book — after all, when 
she came down, looking her very best, as she thought, and ready for 
her lover, Lady Cumnor had sent her back again to her room, just 
as if she had been a little child, to do her hair over again, and not 
to make such a figure of fun of herself! Another time she had 
been sent to change her go^\^l for one in her opinion far less be- 
coming, but which suited Lady Cumnor's taste better. These were 
little things ; but they were late samples of what in different shapes 
she had had to endure for many years ; and her liking for Mr, Gibson 
grew in proportion to her sense of the evils from which he was going 
to serve as a means of escape. After all, that interval of hope and 
plain-sewing, intermixed though it was by tuition, was not disagree- 
able. Her wedding-dress was secure. Her former pupils at the 
Towers were going to present her with that ; they were to dress her 
from head to foot on the auspicious day. Lord Cumnor, as has 
been said, had given her a hundred pounds for her trousseau, and 
had sent Mr. Preston a carte-blanche order for the wedding-breakfast 
in the old hall in Ashcombe Manor-house, Lady Cumnor — a little 
put out by the marriage not being deferred till her grandchildren's 
Christmas holidays — had nevertheless given Mrs. Kirkpatrick an 
excellent English-made watch and chain ; more clumsy but more 
serviceable than the Httle foreign elegance that had hung at her side 
so long, and misled her so often. 



PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING. 141 

Her prcparatlous were thus in a very considerable state of for- 
wardness, while Mr. Gibson had done nothing as yet towards any 
new arrangement or decoration of his house for his intended bride. 
He knew he ought to do something. But what ? Where to begin, 
when so much was out of order, and he had so little time for super- 
intendence ? At length he came to the wise decision of asking one 
of the Miss Brownings, for old friendship's sake, to take the trouble 
of preparing what was immediately requisite ; and resolved to leavo 
all the more ornamental decorations that he proposed, to the taste of 
his future wife. But before making his request, he had to tell of his 
engagement, which had hitherto been kept a secret from the towns- 
people, who had set down his frequent visits at the Towers to the 
score of the countess's health. He felt how he should have laughed 
in his sleeve at any middle-aged widower who came to him with a 
confession of the kind he had now to make to Miss Brownings, and 
disliked the idea of the necessary call : but it was to be done, 
so one evening he went in " promiscuous," as they called it, and 
told them his story. At the end of the first chapter — that is to say, 
at the end of the story of Mr. Cose's calf-love, Miss Browning held 
up her hands in surprise. 

" To think of Molly, as I have held in long-clothes, coming to 
have a lover ! Well, to be sure ! Sister Phoebe — " (she was just 
coming into the room), " here's a piece of news ! Molly Gibson has 
got a lover ! One may almost say she's had an offer ! Mr. Gibson, 
may not one ? — and she's but sixteen ! " 

" Seventeen, sister," said Miss Phoebe, who piqued herself on 
knowing all about dear Mr. Gibson's domestic affairs. " Seventeen, 
the 22nd of last June." 

" Well, have it your own way. Seventeen, if you like to call her 
so ! " said Miss BrowTiing, impatiently. " The fact is still the sarue 
— she's got a lover ; and it seems to me she was in long-clothes only 
yesterday." 

" I'm sure I hope her course of true love will run smooth," said 
Miss Phoebe. 

Now Mr. Gibson came in ; for his story was not half told, and 
he did not want them to run away too far with the idea of Molly's 
love-affair. 

" Molly knows nothing about it. I haven't even named it to any 
one but you two, and to one other friend. I trounced Coxe well, 
and did my best to keep his attachment — as he calls it — in bounds. 



142 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

But I was sadly puzzled what to do about Molly. Miss Eyre was 
away, and I couldn't leave them in the house together without any 
older woman." 

" Oh, Mr. Gibson ! why did you not send her to us ? " broke in 
Miss Browning. " We would have done anything in our power for 
you ; for your sake, as well as her poor dear mother's." 

" Thank you. I know you would, but it wouldn't have done to 
have had her in HoUingford, just at the time of Coxe's effervescence. 
He's better now. His appetite has come back with double force, 
after the fasting he thought it right to exhibit. He had three 
helpings of black-currant dumpling yesterday." 

" I am sure you are most liberal, Mr. Gibson. Three helpings ! 
And, I daresay, butcher's meat in proportion ? " 

"Oh! I only named it because, with such very young men, it's 
generally see-saw between appetite and love, and I thought the third 
helping a very good sign. But still, you know, what has happened 
once, may happen again." 

" I don't know. Phoebe had an offer of marriage once " said 

Miss Browning. 

"Hush! sister. It might hurt his feelings to have it spoken 
about." 

"Nonsense, child! It's five-and-twenty years ago; and his 
eldest daughter is married herself." 

" I own he has not been constant," pleaded Miss Phoebe, in her 
tender, piping voice. " All men are not — like you, Mr. Gibson — 
faithful to the memory of their first-love." 

Mr. Gibson winced. Jeannie was his first love ; but her name 
had never been breathed in HoUingford. His wife — good, pretty, 
sensible, and beloved as she had been — was not his second ; no, nor 
his third love. And now he was come to make a confidence about 
his second marriage. 

" Well, well," said he ; " at any rate, I thought I must do some- 
thing to protect Molly from such affairs while she was so young, and 
before I had given my sanction. Miss Eyre's little nephew fell ill of 
scarlet fever " 

" Ah ! by-the-by, how careless of me not to inquire. How is 
the poor little fellow ? " 

" Worse — better. It doesn't signify to what I've got to say now ; 
the fact was. Miss Eyre couldn't come back to my house for some 
time, and I cannot leave Molly altogether at Hamley." 



PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING. 143 

"All I I see now, wliy there was tliat suclclen visit to Hamlcy. 
Upon my word, it's quite a romance." 

" I do like hearing of a love-aflair," murmured Miss Phoebe. 

" Then if you'll let me get on with my story, you shall hear of 
mine," said Mr. Gibson, quite beyond his patience with their constant 
interruptions. 

" Yours ! " said Miss Phoebe, faintly. 

"Bless us and save us! " said Miss Browning, with less senti- 
ment in her tone ; " what next ? " 

"My marriage, I hope," said Mr. Gibson, choosing to take her 
expression of intense surprise literally. " And that's what I came to 
speak to you about." 

A little hope darted up in Miss Phoebe's breast. She had often 
said to her sister, in the confidence of curling-time (ladies wore curls 
in those days), " that the only man who could ever bring her to think 
of matrimony was Mr. Gibson ; but that if he ever proposed, she 
should feel bound to accept him, for poor dear Mary's sake ; " never 
explaining what exact style of satisfaction she imagined she should 
give to her dead friend by marrying her late husband. Phoebe 
played nervously with the strings of her black silk apron. Like the 
Caliph in the Eastern story, a whole lifetime of possibilities passed 
through her mind in an instant, of which possibilities the question of 
questions was. Could she leave her sister ? Attend, Phoebe, to the 
present moment, and listen to what is being said before you distress 
yourself with a perplexity which will never arise. 

" Of course it has been an anxious thing for me to decide who I 
should ask to be the mistress of my family, the mother of my 
girl ; but I think I've decided rightly at last. The lady I have 
chosen " 

" Tell us at once who she is, there's a good man," said straighi- 
forward Miss Browning. 

"Mrs. Kii-kpatrick," said the bridegroom elect. 

*' "What ! the governess at the Towers, that the countess makes 
so much of? " 

" Yes ; she is much valued by them — and deservedly so. She 
keeps a school now at Ashcombe, and is accustomed to housekeeping. 
She has brought up the young ladies at the Towers, and has a 
daughter of her own, therefore it is probable she will have a kind, 
motherly feeling towards Molly." 

" She's a very elegant-looking woman," said Miss Phoebe, feeling 



14-1 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

it incumbent upon her to say something laudatory, by way of con- 
cealing the thoughts that had just been passing through her mind. 
" I've seen her in the carriage, riding backwards with the countess : 
a very pretty woman, I should say." 

" Nonsense, sister," said Miss Browning. " What has her 
elegance or prettiness to do with the affair '? Did you ever know a 
widower marry again for such trifles as those ? It's always from a 
sense of duty of one kind or another — isn't it, Mr. Gibson ? They 
want a housekeeper; or they want a mother for their children ; or 
they think their last wife would have liked it." 

Pei'haps the thought had passed through the elder sister's mind 
that Phoobe might have been chosen, for there was a shai-p acrimony 
in her tone ; not unfamiliar to Mr. Gibson, but with which he did 
not choose to cope at this present moment. 

"You must have it your own way, Miss Browning. Settle my 
motives for me. I don't pretend to be quite clear about them 
myself. But I am clear in wishing heartily to keep my old friends, 
and for them to love my future wife for my sake. I don't know any 
two women in the world, except Molly and Mrs. Kirkpatrick, I regard 
as much as I do you. Besides, I want to ask you if you will let 
Molly come and stay with you till after my marriage ?" 

" You might have asked us before you asked Madame Hamley," 
said Miss Browning, only half mollified. " We are your old friends ; 
and we were her mother's friends, too ; though we are not county 
folk." 

" That's unjust," said Mr. Gibson. " And you know it is." 
" I don't know. You are always with Lord Hollingford, when 
you can get at him, much more than you ever are with Mr. Good- 
enough, or Mr. Smith. And you are always going over to Hamley." 
Miss Browning was not one to give in all at once. 
" I seek Lord Hollingford as I should seek such a man, whatever 
his rank or position might be : usher to a school, cai-penter, shoe- 
jnaker, if it were possible for them to have had a similar character of 
mind developed by similar advantages. Mr. Goodcnough is a very 
clever attorney, with strong local interests and not a thought 
beyond." 

'* Well, well, don't go on arguing, it always gives me a headache, 
as Phoebe knows. I didn't mean what I said, that's enough, isii't 
it ? I'll retract anything sooner than be reasoned with. Where 
were we before you began your arguments '? " 



TREPARING FOR THE WEDDING. 145 

" About dear little Molly coming to pay us a visit," said Miss 
Phoebe. 

"I should have asked you at first, only Coxe was so rampant 
with his love. I didn't know what he might do, or how troublesome 
he might be both to Molly and you. But he has cooled down now. 
Absence has had a very tranquillizing effect, and I think Molly may 
be in the same town with him, without any consequences beyond a 
few sighs eveiy time she's brought to his mind by meeting her. And 
I've got another favour to ask of you, so you see it would never do 
for me to argue with you. Miss Browning, when I ought to be a 
humble suppliant. Something must be done to the house to make it 
all ready for the future Mrs. Gibson. It wants painting and papering 
shamefully, and I should think some new furniture, but I'm sure I 
don't know what. Would you be so very kind as to look over the 
place, and see how far a hundred pounds will go ? The dining- 
room walls must be painted ; we'll keep the drawing-room paper for 
her choice, and I've a little spare money for that room for her to lay 
out ; but all the rest of the house I'll leave to you, if you"ll only b& 
kind enough to help an old friend." 

This was a commission which exactly gratified Miss Browning's, 
love of power. The disposal of money involved patronage of trades- 
people, such as she had exercised in her father's lifetime, but had 
very little chance of showing since his death. Her usual good- 
humour v/as quite restored by this proof of confidence in her taste 
and economy, while Miss Phoebe's imagination dwelt rather on the 
pleasure of a visit from Molly. 



Vol. I. 10 



14G 



CHAPTER XIII. 

MOLLY GIBSON'S NEW FRIENDS. 

Time was speeding on ; it was now the middle of August, — if any- 
thing was to be done to the house, it must be done at once. Indeed, 
in several ways Mr. Gibson's arrangements with Miss Browning had 
not been made too soon. The squire had heard that Osborne 
might probably return home for a few days before going abroad ; 
and, though the growing intimacy between Roger and Molly did not 
alarm him in the least, yet he was possessed by a veiy hearty panic 
lest the heir might take a fancy to the surgeon's daughter ; and he 
was in such a fidget for her to leave the house before Osborne came 
home, that his wife lived in constant terror lest he should make it 
too obvious to their visitor. 

Every young girl of seventeen or so, who is at all thoughtful, 
is very apt to make a Pope out of the first person who presents to 
her a new or larger system of duty than that by which she has been 
unconsciously guided hitherto. Such a Pope was Pioger to Molly ; 
she looked to his opinion, to his authority on almost every subject, 
yet he had only said one or two things in a terse manner which 
gave them the force of precepts — stable guides to her conduct — and 
had shown the natural superiority in wisdom and knowledge which 
is sure to exist between a highly educated young man of no common 
intelligence, and an ignorant girl of seventeen, who yet was well 
capable of appreciation. Still, although they were drawn together 
in this very pleasant relationship, each was imagining some one 
very different for the future owner of their whole heart — their 
highest and completest love. Roger looked to find a grand woman, 
his equal, and his empress; beautiful in person, serene in v,'isdom, 
ready for counsel, as was Egeria. Molly's little wavering maiden 



MOLLY GIBSON'S NEW FRIENDS. 147 

fancy dwelt ou the unseen Osborne, who was now a troubadour, and 
now a knight, such as he wrote about in one of his own poems ; 
some one like Osborne, perhaps, rather than Osborne himself, for 
she shrank from giving a personal form and name to the hero that 
was to be. The squire was not unwise in wishing her well out of the 
house before Osborne came home, if he was considering her peace of 
mind. Yet, when she went away from the hall he missed her con- 
stantly ; it had been so pleasant to have her there fulfilling all the 
pretty offices of a daughter ; cheering the meals, so often tete-a-tete 
betwixt him and Roger, with her innocent wise questions, her lively 
interest in their talk, her merry replies to his banter. 

And Roger missed her too. Sometimes her remarks had probed 
into his mind, and excited him to the deep thought in which he 
delighted ; at other times he had felt himself of real help to her in 
her hours of need, and in making her take an interest in books, 
which treated of higher things than the continual fiction and poetry 
which she had hitherto read. He felt something like an affectionate 
tutor suddenly deprived of his most promising pupil ; he wondered 
how she would go on without him ; whether she would be puzzled 
and disheartened by the books he had lent her to read ; how she 
and her stepmother would get along together ? She occupied his 
thoughts a good deal those first few days after she left the hall. 
Mrs. Hamley regretted her more, and longer than did the other two. 
She had given her the place of a daughter in her heart ; and now 
she missed the sweet feminine companionship, the playful caresses, 
the never-ceasing attentions ; the very need of sympathy in her 
sorrows, that Molly had shown so openly from time to time ; all 
these things had extremely endeared her to the tender-hearted 
Mrs. Hamley. 

Molly, too, felt the change of atmosphere keenly; and She 
blamed herself for so feeling even more keenly still. But she could 
not help having a sense of refinement, which had made her appre- 
ciate the whole manner of being at the Hall. By her dear old friends 
the Miss Brownings she was petted and caressed so much that she 
became ashamed of noticing the coarser and louder tones in which 
they spoke, the provincialism of their pronunciation, the absence of 
interest in things, and their greediness of details about persons. 
They asked her questions which she was puzzled enough to answer 
about her future stepmother ; her loyalty to her father forbidding her 
to reply fully and truthfully. She was always glad when they began 

10—2 



148 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

to make inquiries as to every possible affair at tlie Hall. She had 
teen so happy jthere ; she had liked them all, down to the very 
dogs, so thoroughly, that it was easy work replying : she did not 
mind telling them everything, even to the style of Mrs. Hamley's 
invalid dress ; nor what wine the squire drank at dinner. Indeed, 
talking about these things helped her to recall the happiest time in 
her life. But one evening, as they were all sitting together after 
tea in the little upstairs drawing-room, looking into the High Street 
— Molly discoursing away on the various pleasures of Hamley Hall, 
and just then telling of all Roger's wisdom in natural science, and 
some of the curiosities he had shown her, she was suddenly pulled 
up by this little speech, — 

"You seem to have seen a great deal of Mr. Roger, Molly!" 
said Miss Browning, in a way intended to convey a great deal of 
meaning to her sister and none at all to Molly. But — 

The man recovered of the bite ; 
The clog it was that died. 

Molly was perfectly aware of Miss Browning's emphatic tone, though 
at first she was perplexed as to its cause ; while Miss Phoebe was 
just then too much absorbed in knitting the heel of her stocking to 
be fully alive to her sister's words and winks. 

" Yes ; he was very kind to me," said Molly, slowly, pondering 
over Miss Browning's manner, and unwilling to say more until she 
had satisfied herself to what the question tended. 

" I daresay you will soon be going to Hamley Hall again ? He's 
not the eldest son, you know, Phoebe ! Don't make my head ache 
with your eternal 'eighteen, nineteen,' but attend to the conversation. 
Molly is telling us how much she saw of Mr. Roger, and how kind 
he was to her. I've always heard he was a very nice young man, 
my dear. Tell us some more about him ! Now, Phoebe, attend ! 
How was he kind to you, Molly ?" 

" Oh, he told me what books to read ; and one day he made me 
notice how many bees I saw " 

"Bees, child! What do you mean? Either you or he must 
have been crazy ! " 

" No, not at all. There are more than two hundred kinds of 
bees in England, and he wanted me to notice the difference between 
them and flies. Miss Browning, I can't help seeing what you fancy," 
said Molly, as red as fire, " but it is very wrong ; it is all a mistake. 



MOLLY GIBSON'S NEW FRIENDS. 140 

I won't speak another word about Mr. Roger or Hamley at all, if it 
puts such silly notions into your head." 

" Highty-tighty ! Here's a young lady to be lecturing her 
ciders ! Silly notions indeed ! They are in your head, it seems. 
And let me tell you, Molly, you are too young to let your mind be 
running on lovers." 

Molly had been once or twice called saucy and impertinent, and 
certainly a little sauciness came out now. 

" I never said what the ' silly notion ' was, Miss Browning; did 
I now, Miss Phoebe ? Don't you see, dear Miss Phoebe, it is all her 
own interpretation, and according to her own fancy, this foolish talk 
about lovers?" 

Molly was flaming with indignation ; but she had appealed to the 
wrong person for justice. Miss Phoebe tried to make peace after the 
fashion of weak-minded people, who would cover over the unpleasant 
sight of a sore, instead of trying to heal it. 

" I'm sure I don't know anything about it, my dear. It seems 
to mo that what Clarinda was saying was very true — very true indeed ; 
and I think, love, you misunderstood her ; or, perhaps, she misun- 
derstood you ; or I may be misunderstanding it altogether ; so we'd 
better not talk any more about it. What price did you say yoit 
were going to give for the drugget in Mr. Gibson's dining-room, 
sister ? " 

So Miss Browning and Molly went on till evening, each chafed 
and angiy with the other. They wished each other good-night, going 
through the usual forms in the coolest manner possible. Molly went 
up to her little bedroom, clean and neat as a bedroom could be, with 
draperies of small delicate patchwork — bed-curtains, window-curtains, 
and counterpane ; a japanned toilette-table, full of little boxes, with 
a small looking-glass affixed to it, that distorted every face that -vfas 
so unwise as to look in it. This room had been to the child one of 
the most dainty and luxurious places ever seen, in comparison with 
her own bare, white-dimity bedroom ; and now she was sleeping in it, 
as a guest, and all the quaint adornments she had once peeped at as 
a great favour, as they were carefully wrapped up in cap-paper, were 
set out for her use. And yet how little she had deserved this hos- 
pitable care ; how impertinent she had been ; how cross she had felt 
ever since ! She was crying tears of penitence and youthful misery 
when there came a low tap to the door. Molly opened it, and there 
stood Miss Browning, in a wonderful erection of a nightcap, and 



150 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

scantily attired in a coloured calico jacket over her scrimpy aud short 
white petticoat. 

" I was afraid you were asleep, child," said she, coming in and 
shutting the door. " But I wanted to say to j-ou we've got wrong 
to-day, somehow ; and I think it was perhaps my doing. It's as well 
Phcehe shouldn't know, for she thinks me perfect ; and when there's 
only two of us, we get along hetter if one of us thinks the other can 
do no wrong. But I rather think I was a little cross. We'll not say 
any more about it, Molly ; only we'll go to sleep friends, — aud friends 
we'll always be, child, won't we ? Now give me a kiss, and don't 
cry and swell your eyes up ; — and put out your candle carefully." 

" I was wrong — it was my fault," said Molly, kissing her. 

" Fiddlestick-ends ! Don't contradict me ! I say it was my 
fault, and I won't hear another word about it." 

The next day Molly went with Miss Browning to see the changes 
going on in her father's house. To her they were but dismal im- 
provements. The faint grey of the dining-room walls, which had 
harmonized well enough with the deep crimson of the moreen 
curtains, and which when well cleaned looked thinly coated rather 
than dirty, was now exchanged for a pink salmon-colour of a veiy 
glowing hue ; and the new curtains were of that pale sea-green just 
coming into fashion. "Very bright and pretty," Miss Browning 
called it ; and in the first renevviug of their love Molly could not bear 
to contradict her. She could only hope that the green aud brown 
drugget would tone down the brightness and prettiness. There was 
scaffolding here, scaffolding there, and Betty scolding everywhere. 

" Come up now, and see your papa's bedroom. He's sleeping 
upstairs in yours, that ever}'thing may be done up afresh in his." 

Molly could just remember, in faint clear lines of distinctness, 
the being taken into this very room to bid farewell to her dying 
mother. She could see the white linen, the white muslin, surrounding 
the pale, wan wistful face, vath the large, longing eyes, yearning for 
one more touch of the little soft warm child, whom she was too feeble 
to clasp in her arms, already growing numb in death. Many a time 
when Molly had been in this room since that sad day, had she seen 
in vivid fancy that same wan wistful face lying on the pillow, the 
outline of the form beneath the clothes ; and the girl had not shrunk 
from such visions, but rather cherished them, as preserving to her the 
remembrance of her mother's outward semblance. Her eyes were 
full of tears, as she followed Miss Browning into this room to see it 



MOLLY GIBSOK'S KEW FHIENDS. 151 

under its uew aspect. Nearly everything was changed — the position 
of the hed and the colour of the furniture ; there was a grand 
toilctte-tahle now, with a glass upon it, instead of the primitive sub- 
stitute of the top of a chest of drawers, with a mirror above upon 
the wall, sloping downwards ; these latter tilings had served her 
mother during her short married life. 

" You see we must have all in order for a lady who has passed so 
much of her time in the countess's mansion," said Miss Browning, 
who was now quite reconciled to the marriage, thanks to the pleasant 
employment of furnishing that had devolved upon her in consequence. 
" Cromer, the upholsterer, wanted to persuade me to have a sofa and 
a writing-table. These men will say anything is the fashion, if they 
want to sell an article. I said, ' No, no, Cromer : bedrooms are for 
sleeping in, and sitting-rooms are for sitting in. Keep ereiything to 
its right purpose, and don't try and delude me into nonsense.' Why, 
my mother would haA^e given us a fine scolding if she had ever 
caught us in our bedrooms in the daytime. We kept our out-door 
things in a closet downstairs ; and there was a very tidy place for 
washing our hands, which is as much as one wants in the daytime. 
Stuffing up a bedroom with sofas and tables ! I never heard of such 
a thing. Besides, a hundred pounds won't last for ever. I sha'n't 
be able to do anything for your room, Molly ! " 

" I'm right down glad of it," said Molly. " Nearly everything 
in it was what mamma had when she lived with my great-uncle. I 
wouldn't have had it changed for the world ; I am so fond of it." 

" Well, there's no danger of it, now the money is run out. By 
the way, Molly, who's to buy you a bridesmaid's dress ? " 

" I don't know," said Molly; "I suppose I am to be a brides- 
maid ; but no one has spoken to me about my di'ess." 

" Then I shall ask your papa." 

" Please, don't. He must have to spend a great deal of money 
just now. Besides, I would rather not be at the wedding, if they'll 
let me stay away." 

" Nonsense, child. Why, all the town would be talking of it. 
You must go, and you must be well dressed, for your father's sake." 

But Mr. Gibson had thought of Molly's di'ess, although he had 
said nothing about it to her. He had commissioned his future wife 
to get her what was requisite ; and presently a very smart dressmaker 
came over fi*om the county-town to try on a dress, which was both so 
simple and so elegant as at once to chann Molly. When it came 



152 AVIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

home all ready to put on, Molly had a i)rivate dressiug-up for the 
Miss Brownings' benefit; and she was almost startled when she 
looked into the glass, and saw the improvement in her appearance. 
" I wonder if I'm pretty," thought she. " I almost think I am — in 
this kind of dress I mean, of course. Betty would say, ' fine feathers 
make fine birds.' " 

When she went downstairs in her bridal attire, and with shy 
blushes presented herself for inspection, she was greeted with a burst 
of admiration. 

" Well, upon my word ! I shouldn't have known you." (" Fine 
feathers," thought Molly, and checked her rising vanity.) 

" You are really beautiful — isn't she, sister ? " said Miss Phcebe. 
" Why, my dear, if you w^ere always dressed, you would be prettier 
than your dear mamma, whom we always reckoned so very personable." 

" You're not a bit like her. You favour your father, and white 
always sets off" a brown complexion." 

" But isn't she beautiful ? " persevered Miss Phoebe. 

" Well ! and if she is, Providence made her, and not she 
herself. Besides, the dressmaker must go shares. What a fine 
India muslin it is ! it'll have cost a pretty penny ! "' 

Mr. Gibson and Molly drove over to Ashcombe, the night before 
the wedding, in the one yellow post-chaise that Hollingford possessed. 
They were to be Mr. Preston's, or, rather, my lord's, guests at the 
Manor-house. The Manor-house came up to its name, and delighted 
Molly at first sight. It was built of stone, had many gables and 
mullioned windows, and was covered over with Virginian creeper and 
late-blowing roses. Molly did not know Mr. Preston, who stood in 
the doorway to greet hor father. She took standing with him as a 
young lady at once, and it was the first time she had met with the 
kind of behaviour — half complimentary, half flirting — which some 
men think it necessary to assume with every woman under five-and- 
twenty. Mr. Preston was very handsome, and knew it. He was a 
fair man, with light-brown hair and whiskers ; grey, roving, well- 
shaped eyes, with lashes darker than his hair ; and a figure rendered 
easy and supple by the athletic exercises in which his excellence was 
famous, and which had procured him admission into much higher 
society than he was otherwise entitled to enter. He was a capital 
cricketer ; was so good a shot, that any house desu'ous of reputation 
for its bags on the 12th or the 1st, was glad to have him for a guest. 
He taught young ladies to play billiards on a wet day, or went in for 



MOLLY GIBSON'S NEW FRIENDS. 153 

the game in serious earnest wlien required. He knew half the private 
theatrical plays off hy heart, and was invaluable in arranging im- 
promptu charades and tableaux. He had his own private reasons 
for wishing to get up a flirtation with Molly just at this time ; he had 
amused himself so much with the widow when she first came to 
Ashcombe, that he fancied that the sight of him, standing by her 
less poHshed, less handsome, middle-aged husband, might be too 
much of a contrast to be agreeable. Besides, he had really a strong 
passion for some one else ; some one who would be absent ; and that 
passion it was necessary for him to conceal. So that, altogether, he 
had resolved, even had "the little Gibson-girl" (as he called her) 
been less attractive than she was, to devote himself to her for the 
next sixteen hours. 

They were taken by their host into a wainscoted parlour, where a 
wood fire crackled and burnt, and the crimson curtains shut out the 
waning day and the outer chill. Here the table was laid for dinner ; 
snowy table-linen, bright silver, clear sparkling glass, wine and an 
autumnal dessert on the sideboard. Yet Mr. Preston kept apologizing 
to Molly for the rudeness of his bachelor home, for the smallness of 
the room, the great dining-room being already appropriated by his 
housekeeper, in preparation for the morrow's breakfast. And then 
he rang for a seiTaut to show Molly to her room. She was taken 
into a most comfortable chamber ; a wood fire on the hearth, candles 
lighted on the toilette-table, dark woollen curtains surrounding a 
snow-white bed, great vases of china standing here and there. 

" This is my Lady Harriet's room when her ladyship comes to 
the Manor-house with my lord the earl," said the housemaid, striking 
out thousands of brilliant sparks by a well-directed blow at a 
smouldering log. "Shall I help you to dress, miss? I always 
helps her ladyship," t 

" Molly, quite aware of the fact that she had but her white 
muslin gown for the wedding besides that she had on, dismissed the 
good woman, and was thankful to be left to herself. 

"Dinner" was it called? Why, it was nearly eight o'clock; 
and preparations for bed seemed a more natural employment than 
dressing at this hour of night. All the dressing she could manage 
was the placing of a red damask rose or two in the band of her grey 
stuff gown, there standing a great nosegay of choice autumnal 
flowers on the toilette-table. She did try the efi'ect of another 
crimson rose in her black hair, just above her ear ; it was veiy pretty, 



154 AYIVES A^'D EAUGKTEKS. 

but too coquettish, aud so she put it back again. The dark-oak 
panels and waiuscoting of the whole house seemed to glow in warai 
light ; there were so many fires in different rooms, in the hall, and 
even one on the landing of the staircase. Mr. Preston must have 
heard her step, for he met her in the hall, and led her into a small 
di-awing-room, with close folding-doors on one side, opening into the 
larger drawing-room, as he told her. This room into which she 
entered reminded her a little of Hamley — yellow-satin upholsteiy of 
seventy or a hundred years ago, all delicately kept aud scrupulously 
clean ; great Indian cabinets, and china jars, emitting spicy odours ; 
a large blazing fire, before which her father stood in his morning 
dress, grave and thoughtful, as he had been all day. 

" This room is that which Lady Harriet uses when she comes 
here with her father for a day or two," said Mr. Preston. And 
Molly tried to save her father by being ready to talk herself. 

" Does she often come here ? " 

" Not often. But I fancy she likes being here when she does. 
Perhaps she finds it an agreeable change after the more formal life 
she leads at the Towers." 

" I should think it was a very pleasant house to stay at," said 
Molly, remembering the look of warm comfort that pervaded it. 
But a little to her dismay Mr. Preston seemed to take it as a com- 
pliment to himself. 

" I was afraid a young lady like you might perceive all the incon- 
gruities of a bachelor's home. I am very much obliged to you^ 
Miss Gibson. In general I liv3 pretty much in the room in which 
wo shall dine ; and I have a sort of agent's ofiice in which I keep 
books and papers, aud receive callers on business." 

Then they went in to dinner. Molly thought eveiything that was 
served was delicious, aud cooked to the point of perfection ; but they 
did not seem to satisfy Mr. Preston, who apologized to his guests 
several times for the bad cooking of this dish, or the omission of a 
particular sauce to that ; always referring to bachelor's house- 
keeping, bachelor's this and bachelor's that, till Molly grew quite 
impatient at the word. Her father's depression, which was still 
continuing and rendering him veiy silent, made her uneasy ; yet she 
wished to conceal it from Mr. Preston ; and so she talked away, 
trying to obviate the sort of personal bearing which their host would 
give to everything. She did not know when to leave the gentlemen, 
but her father made a sign to her ; and she was conducted back ia 



MOLLY GIBSON'S NEW FRIENDS. 155 

the yellow drawing-room by Mr. Preston, who made many apologies 
for leaving her there alone. She enjoyed herself extremely, how- 
ever, feeling at liberty to prowl about, and examine all the curiosities 
the room contained. Among other things was a Louis Quinze cabinet 
with lovely miniatures in enamel let into the fine woodwork. She 
carried a candle to it, and was looking intently at these faces when 
her father and Mr. Preston came in. Her father still looked care- 
worn and anxious ; he came up and patted her on the back, looked 
at what she was looking at, and then went off to silence and the fire. 
Mr. Preston took the candle out of her hand, and threw himself into 
her interests with an air of ready gallantry. 

" That is said to be Mademoiselle de St. Quentin, a great beauty 
at the French Court. This is Madame du Barri. Do you see any 
likeness in Mademoiselle de St. Quentin to any one you know ? "■ 
He had lowered his voice a little as he asked this question. 

" No ! " said Molly, looking at it again. •' I never sav/ any one 
half so beautiful." 

" But don't you see a likeness — in the eyes particularly ? " he 
asked again, with some impatience. 

Molly tried hard to find out a resemblance, and was again 
unsuccessful. 

" It constantly reminds me of — of Miss Kirkpatrick." 

" Does it ? " said Molly, eagerly. " Oh ! I am so glad— I've 
never seen her, so of course I couldn't find out the likeness. You 
know her, then, do you ? Please tell me all about her." 

He hesitated a moment before speaking. He smiled a little 
before replying. 

" She's very beautiful ; that of course is understood when I say 
that this miniature does not come up to her for beauty." 

" And besides ? — Go on, please." ^ 

" What do you mean by ' besides ' ? " 

" Oh ! I suppose she's very clever and accomplished ? " 

That was not in the least what Molly wanted to ask ; but it was 
difficult to word the vague vastness of her unspoken inquiry. 

" She is clever naturally; she has picked up accomplishments. 
But she has such a charm about her, one forgets what she herself is 
in the halo that surrounds her. You ask me all this. Miss Gibson, 
and I answer truthfully ; or else I should not entertain one young 
lady with my enthusiastic j)raises of another." 

" I don't see why not," said Molly. " Besides, if you wouldn't 



156 \YIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

do it iu general, I tliiuk you ought to do it iu my case ; for you, 
perhaps, don't know, but she is coming to live with us when she 
leaves school, and we are very nearly the same age ; so it will be 
almost like having a sister." 

" She is to live with you, is she ? " said Mr. Preston, to whom 
this intelligence was news. "And when is she to leaVe school ? I 
thought she would surely have been at this wedding ; but I was told 
she was not to come. When is she to leave school ? " 

" I think it is to be at Easter. You know she's at Boulogne, 
and it's a long journey for her to come alone ; or else papa wished 
for her to be at the marriage very much indeed." 

" And her mother prevented it ? — I understand." 

" No, it wasn't her mother ; it was the French schoolmistress, 
who didn't think it desirable." 

" It comes to pretty much the same thing. And she's to return 
and live with you after Easter ? " 

" I believe so. Is she a grave or a merry person ? " 

" Never very grave, as far as I have seen of her. Sparkling 
would be the word for her, I think. Do you ever write to her ? If 
you do, pray remember me to her, and tell her how we have been 
talking about her — you and I." 

" I never write to her," said Molly, rather shortly. 

Tea came in ; and after that they all went to bed. Molly heard 
her father exclaim at the fire in his bedroom, and Mr. Preston's 
reply— 

" I pique myself on my keen relish for all creature comforts, and 
also on my power of doing without them, if need be. My lord's 
woods are ample, and I indulge myself with a fire in my bedroom 
for nine months in the year ; yet I could travel in Iceland without 
wincing from the cold." 



( 1^7 ) 



CHAPTER XIV. 

MOLLY FINDS lEEKSELF PATRONIZED. 

The wedding went off mucli as such afiairs do. Lord Cumnor and 
Lady Harriet drove over from the Towers, so the hour for the cere- 
mony was as late as possible. Lord Cumnor came over to officiate 
as the bride's father, and was in more open glee than either bride or 
bridegi'oom, or any one else. Lady Harriet came as a sort of 
amateur bridesmaid, to " share Molly's duties," as she called it. 
They went from the Manor-house in two carriages to the church in 
the park, Mr. Preston and Mr. Gibson in one, and Molly, to her 
dismay, shut up M-ith Lord Cumnor and Lady Harriet in the other. 
Lady Harriet's gown of white muslin had seen one or two garden- 
parties, and was not in the freshest order ; it had been rather a freak 
of the young lady's at the last moment. She was very merry, and 
very much inclined to talk to Molly, by way of finding out what sort 
of a little personage Clare was to have for her future daughter. She 
began : — 

" We mustn't crush this pretty muslin dress of yours. Put it 
over papa's knee ; he doesn't mind it in the least." 

" What, my dear, a white dress ! — no, to be sure not. I ratber 
like it. Besides, going to a wedding, who minds anything ? It would 
be difi"erent if we were going to a funeral." 

Molly conscientiously strove to find out the meaning of this 
speech ; but before she had done so. Lady Harriet spoke again, going 
to the point, as she always piqued herself on doing : 

" I daresay it's something of a trial to you, this second marriage 
of your father's ; but you'll find Clare the most amiable of women. 
She always let me have my own way, and I've no doubt she'll let you 
have yours." 

" I mean to tiy and like her," said Molly, in a low voice, trying 



158 WIVES AND DAUaHTERS. 

hard to keep down the tears that would keep rising to her eyes this 
morning. " I've seen very little of her yet." 

" Why, it's the very hest thing for you that could have happened, 
my dear," said Lord Cumnor. "You're growing up into a young 
lady — and a very pretty young lady, too, if you'll allow an old man 
to say so — and who so proper as your father's wife to hring you out, 
and show you oflf, and take you to balls, and that kind of thing ? I 
always said this match that is going to come off to-day was the most 
suitable thing I ever knew ; and it's even a better thing for you than 
for the people themselves." 

" Poor child ! " said Lady Harriet, who had caught a sight of 
Molly's troubled face, " the thought of balls is too much for her just 
now ; but you'll like having C3'nthia Kirkpatrick for a companion, 
sha'n't you, dear ? " 

" Very much," said Molly, cheering up a little. " Do you know 
her ? " 

" Oh, I've seen her over and over again when she was a little 
girl, and once or twice since. She's the prettiest creature that you 
ever saw ; and with eyes that mean mischief, if I'm not mistaken. 
But Clare kept her spirit under pretty well when she was staying 
with us, — afraid of her being troublesome, I fancy." 

Before Molly could shape her nest question, they were at the 
church ; and she and Lady Harriet went into a pew near the door to 
■wait for the bride, in v/hose train they were to proceed to the altar. 
The earl drove on alone to fetch her from her own house, not 
a quarter of a mile distant. It was pleasant to her to be led to the 
hymeneal altar by a belted earl, and pleasant to have his daughter as 
a volunteer bridesmaid. Mrs. Kirkpatrick in this flush of small 
gratifications, and on the brink of matrimony with a man whom she 
liked, and who would be bound to support her without any exertion 
of her own, looked beamingly happy and handsome. A little cloud 
came over her face at the sight of Mr. Preston, — the sweet perpetuity 
of her smile was rather disturbed as he followed in Mr. Gibson's 
wake. But his face never changed ; he bowed to her gravely, and 
then seemed absorbed in the service. Ten minutes, and all was over. 
The bride and bridegroom were driving together to the Manor-house, 
Mr. Preston was walking thither by a short cut, and Molly was again 
in the carriage with my lord, rubbing his hands and chuckling, and 
Lady Harriet, trying to be kind and consolatory, when her silence 
would have been the best comfort. 



MOLLY FINDS HERSELF PATRONIZED. 159 

Molly found out, to her dismaj-, that the plan was for her to return 
with Lord Cumnor and Lady Harriet when they went back to the 
Towers in the evening. In the meantime Lord Cumnor had business 
to do with Mr. Preston, and after the happy couple had driven off on 
their week's holiday tour, she was to be left alone with the formidable 
Lady Harriet. When they were by themselves after all the others 
had been thus disposed of, Lady Harriet sate still over the drawing- 
room fire, holding a screen between it and her face, but gazing 
intently at Molly for a minute or two. Molly was fully conscious of 
this prolonged look, and was trying to get up her courage to return 
the stare, when Lady Harriet suddenly said, — 

" I like you ; — you are a little wild creature, and I want to 
tame you. Come here, and sit on this stool by me. What is your 
name ? or what do they call you ? — as North-country people would 
express it." 

" Molly Gibson. My real name is Mary." 

" Molly is a nice, soft-sounding name. People in the last 
century weren't afraid of homely names ; now we are all so smart 
and fine : no more ' Lady Bettys ' now. I almost wonder they 
haven't re-christened all the worsted and knitting-cotton that bears 
her name. Fancy Lady Constantia's cotton, or Lady Anna-Maria's 
worsted." 

" I didn't know there was a Lady Betty's cotton," said Molly. 

" That proves you don't do fancy-work ! You'll find Clare will 
set you to it, though. She used to set me at piece after piece : 
knights kneeling to ladies ; impossible flowers. But I must do her 
the justice to add that when I got tired of them she finished them 
herself. I wonder how you'll get on together ? " 

" So do I ! " sighed out Molly, under her breath. 

" I useolj, to think I managed her, till one day an uncomfortubla 
suspicion arose that all the time she had been managing me. Still 
it's easy v/ork to let oneself be managed ; at any rate till one 
wakens up to the consciousness of the process, and then it may 
become amusing, if one takes it in that light." 

" I should hats to be managed," said Molly, indignantly. " I'll 
tiy and do what she wishes for papa's sake, if she'll only tell me 
outright ; but I should dislike to be trapped into anything." 

" Now I," said Lady Harriet, " am too lazy to avoid traps; and 
I rather like to remark the cleverness with which they're set. But 
then, of course, I know that if I choose to exert myself, I can break 



160 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

through the withes of green flax with which they try to bind me. 
Now, perhaps, you won't be able." 

" I don't quite understand what you mean," said Molly. 

*' Oh, well — never mind ; I daresay it's as well for you that you 
shouldn't. The moral of all I have been saying is, ' Be a good girl, 
and suffer yourself to be led, and you'll find your new stepmother the 
sweetest creature imaginable.' You'll get on capitally with her, I 
make no doubt. How you'll get on with her daughter is another 
affair ; but I daresay very well. Now we'll ring for tea ; for I 
suppose that heavy breakfast is to stand for our lunch." 

Mr. Preston came into the room just at this time, and Molly was 
a little surprised at Lady Harriet's cool manner of dismissing him, 
remembering as she did how Mr. Preston had implied his intimacy 
with her ladyship the evening before at dinner-time. 

" I cannot bear that sort of person," said Lady Harriet, almost 
before he was out of hearing ; " giving himself airs of gallantry 
towards one to whom his simple respect is all his duty. I can talk 
to one of my father's labourers with pleasure, while with a man like 
that underbred fop I am all over thorns and nettles. What is it the 
Irish call that style of creature ? They've some capital word for it, 
I know. What is it ? " 

" I don't know — I never heard it," said Molly, a little ashamed 
of her ignorance. 

" Oh ! that shows you've never read Miss Edgeworth's tales ; — 
now, have you '? If you had, you'd have recollected that there was 
such a word, even if you didn't remember what it was. If you've 
never read those stoi-ies, they would be just the thing to beguile your 
solitude — vastly improving and moral, and yet quite sufficiently 
interesting. I'll lend them to you while you're all alone." 

" I'm not alone. I'm not at home, but on a visit to Miss 
Brownings." 

" Then I'll bring them to you. I know the Miss Bro-miings ; 
they used to come regularly on the schr>ol-day to the Towers. 
Pecksy and Flapsy I used to call them. I like the Miss Brownings ; 
one gets enough of respect from them at any rate ; and I've always 
wanted to see the kind of menage of such people. I'll bring you a 
whole pile of Miss Edgeworth's stories, my dear." 

Molly sate quite silent for a minute or two ; then she mustered 
up courage to speak out what was in her mind. 

" Your ladyship " (the title was the firstfruits of the lesson, as 



MOLLY FINDS HERSELF PATllONIZED. IGl 

Molly took it, on paying duo respect) — " your ladyship keeps speak- 
ing of the sort of — the class of people to which I belong as if it was 
a kind of strange animal you were talking about ; yet you talk so 
openly to me that " 

" Well, go on — I like to hear you." 

Still silence. 

" You think me in your heart a little impertinent — now, don't 
you ? " said Lady Harriet, almost kindly. 

Molly held her peace for two or three moments ; then she lifted 
her beautiful, honest eyes to Lady Harriet's face, and said, — 

" Yes ! — -a little. But I think you a great many other things." 

"We'll leave the 'other things' for the present. Don't you 
see, little one, I talk after my kind, just as you talk after j'our kind. 
It's only on the surface with both of us. Why, I daresay some 
of your good Holliugford ladies talk of the poor people in a manner 
which they would consider as impertinent in their turn, if they could 
hear it. But I ought to be more considerate when I remember how 
often my blood has boiled at the modes of speech and behaviour of 

one of my aunts, mamma's sister. Lady No ! I won't name names. 

Any one who earns his livelihood by any exercise of head or hands, 
from professional people and rich merchants down to labourers, she 
calls ' persons.' She would never in her most slip-slop talk accord 
them even the conventional title of ' gentlemen ;' and the way in which 
she takes possession of human beings, ' my woman,' ' my people,' — 
but, after all, it is only a way of speaking. I ought not to have used 
it to you ; but somehow I separate you from all these HoUingford 
people." 

" But why ? " persevered Molly. " I'm one of them." 

" Yes, you are. But — now don't reprove me again for imperti- 
nence — most of them are so unnatural in their exaggerated respect 
and admiration when they come up to the Towers, and put on so 
much pretence by way of fine manners, that they only make them- 
selves objects of ridicu^o. You at least are simple and truthful, and 
that's why I separate you in my own mind from them, and have 

talked unconsciously to you as I would -well ! now here's another 

piece of impertinence — as I would to my equal — in rank, I mean ; for 
I don't set myself up in solid things as any better than my neigh- 
bours. Here's tea, however, come in time to stop me from growing 
too humble." 

It was fi very pleasant little tea in the fading September twilight. 
Vol. I. 11 



162 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Just as it was ended, in came Mr. Preston again : — 

" Lady Harriet, will you allow me the pleasure of showing you 
some alterations I have made in the flower-garden — in which I have 
tried to consult your taste — hefore it grows dark ? " 

" Thank you, Mr. Preston. I will ride over with papa some day, 
and we will see if we approve of them." 

Mr. Preston's hrow flushed. But he affected not to perceive Lady 
Harriet's haughtiness, and, turning to Molly, he said, — 

" Will not you come out, Miss Gibson, and see something of the 
gardens ? You haven't been out at all, I think, excepting to church." 

Molly did not like the idea of going out for a tete-a-tete walk with 
Mr. Pi'eston ; yet she pined for a little fresh air, would have liked 
to have seen the gardens, and have looked at the Manor-house from 
different aspects ; and, besides this, much as she recoiled from Mr. 
Preston, she felt sorry for him under the repulse he had just received. 

While she was hesitating, and slov.dy tending towards consent. 
Lady Harriet spoke, — 

" I cannot spare Miss Gibson. If she would like to see the place, 
I will bring her over some day myself." 

When he had left the room. Lady Harriet said, — 

" I daresay it's my own lazy selfishness has kept you indoors all 
day against your will. But, at any rate, you are not to go out walk- 
ing with that man. I've an instinctive aversion to him ; not entirely 
instinctive either ; it has some foundation in fact : and I desire you 
don't allow him ever to get intimate with you. He's a very clever 
land-agent, and does his duty by papa, and I don't choose to be taken 
up for libel ; but remember what I say ! " 

Then the carriage came round, and after numberless last words 
from the earl — who appeared to have put off' every possible dii'ection 
to the moment when he stood, like an awkward MercuiT, balancing 
himself on the step of the carriage — they drove back to the Towers. 

*' Would you rather come in and dine with us — we should send 
you home, of course — or go home straight ? " asked Lady Harriet of 
Molly. She and her father had both been sleeping till they drcvv^ up 
at the bottom of the flight of steps. 

" Tell the truth, novy- and evermore. Truth is generally amusing, 
if it's nothing else ! " 

" I would rather go back to Miss Brownings' at once, please," 
said I\Iolly, v.'ith a nightmare-like recollection of the last, the only 
evening she had spent at the Towers. 




Unttelcome Attentions 



MOLLY FINDS HERSELF PATRONIZED. 163 

Lord Cummor was standing on the steps, -waiting to hand his 
daughter out of the carriage. Lady Harriet stopped to kiss Molly 
on the forehead, and to say, — 

" I shall come some day soon, and hring you a load of Miss 
Edgeworth's tales, and make further acquaintance with Pecksy and 
Flapsy." 

" Xo, don't, please," said Molly, taking hold of her, to detain 
her. " You must not come — indeed you must not." 

"Why not?" 

"Because I would rather not — because I think that I ought not 
to have any one coming to see me who laughs at the friends I am 
staying with, and calls them names." Molly's heart beat very fast, 
but she meant every word that she said. 

" My dear little woman ! " said Lady Harriet, bending over her 
and speaking quite gravely. " I'm very sorry to have called them 
names — very, veiy soiiy to have hurt you. If I promise you to be 
respectful to them in word and in deed — and in very thought, if I can — 
jonll let me then, won't you ? " 

Molly hesitated. " I'd better go home at once ; I shall only say 
wrong things — and there's Lord Cumnor waiting all this time." 

" Let him alone ; he's very well amused hearing all the news of 
the day from Brown. Then I shall come — under promise ? " 

So Molly drove off in solitary grandeur ; and Miss Brownings' 
knocker was loosened on its venerable hinges by the never-ending 
peal of Lord Cumnor's footman. 

They were full of welcome, full of curiosity. All through the long 
day they had been missing their bright young visitor, and three or 
four times in every hour they had been wondering and settling what 
everybody was doing at that exact minute. What had become of 
Molly during all the afternoon, had been a great peii)lexity to th^ ; 
and they were very much oppressed with a sense of the great honour 
she had received in being allowed to spend so many hours alone with 
Lady Harriet. They were, indeed, more excited by this one fact 
than by all the details of the wedding, most of which they had known 
of beforehand, and talked over with much perseverance during the 
day. Molly began to feel as if there was some foundation for Lady 
Harriet's inclination to ridicule the worship paid by the good people 
of HoUingford to their liege lord, and to wonder with what tokens of 
reverence they would receive Lady Harriet if she came to pay her 
promised visit. She had never thought of concealing the probability 

11—2 



164 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

of this call nutil this eveulug ; but now she felt as if it would be 
better not to speak of the chance, as she was not at all sure that the 
promise would be fulfilled. 

Before Lady Harriet's call was paid, Molly received another visit. 

Roger Hamley came riding over one day with a note from his 
mother, and a wasps'-ucst as a present from himself. Molly heard 
'nis powerful voice come sounding up the little staircase, as he asked 
if Miss Gibson was at home from the servant-maid at the door ; and 
she was half amused and half annoyed as she thought how this call 
of his would give colour to Miss Browning's fancies. "I would 
rather never be married at all," thought she, "than marry an ugly 
man, — and dear good Mr. Roger is really ugly ; I don't think one 
could even call him plain." Yet Miss Brownings, Avho did not look 
upon young men as if their natural costume was a helmet and a suit 
of armour, thought Mr. Roger Hamley a very personable young fellow, 
as he came into the room, his face flushed with exercise, his v/hite 
teeth showing pleasantly in the courteous bow and smile he gave 
to all around. He knew the Miss Brownings slightly, and talked 
pleasantly to them while Molly read Mrs. Hamley's little missive of 
sympathy and good wishes relating to the wedding ; then he turned 
to her, and though Miss Brownings listened with all their ears, they 
could not find out anything remarkable either in the words he said 
or the tone in which they were spoken. 

"I've brought you the wasps'-nest I promised you, Miss Gibson. 
There has been no lack of such things this year ; we've taken 
seventy-four on my father's land alone ; and one of the labourers, a 
poor fellow who ekes out his wages by bce-kecpiug, has had a sad 
misfortune — the wasps have turned the bees out of his seven hives, 
taken possession, and eaten up the honey." 

" AVhat greedy little vermin ! " said Miss Bro-\\aiing. 

Molly saw Roger's eyes tv/inkle at the misapplication of the word ; 
but though he had a strong sense of humour, it never appeared to 
diminish his respect for the people who amused him. 

" I'm sure they deserve fire and brimstone more than the poor 
dear innocent bees," said Miss Phoebe. " And then it seems so 
ungrateful of mankind, who arc going to feast on the honey ! " She 
sighed over the thought, as if it was too much for her. 

While Molly finished reading her note, he explained its contents 
to Miss Browning. 

"My brother and I arc going with my father to an agricultural 



MOLLY FINDS HERSELF PATRONIZED. ' 165 

meeting at Canonbury on Thursday, and my mother desired me to 
say to you how very much obliged she should be if you would spare 
her Miss Gibson for the day. She was very anxious to ask for the 
pleasure of your company, too, but she really is so poorly that we 
persuaded her to be content with Miss Gibson, as she wouldn't 
scruple leaving a young lady to amuse herself, which she would be 
unvi-illing to do if you and your sister were there." 

" I'm sure she's very kind ; very. Nothing would have given us 
more pleasure," said Miss Browning, drawing herself up in gratified 
dignity. " Oh, yes, we quite understand, Mr. Koger ; and we fully 
recognize Mrs. Hamley's kind intention. We will take the will for 
the deed, as the common people express it. I believe that there 
was an intermarriage between the Brownings and the Hamleys, a 
generation or two ago." 

" I daresay there was," said Koger. " My mother is very 
delicate, and obliged to humour her health, which has made her 
keep aloof from society." 

" Then I may go ?" said Molly, sparkling with the idea of seeing 
licr dear Mrs. Hamley again, yet afraid of appearing too desirous of 
leaving her kind old friends. 

" To be sure, my dear. "Write a pretty note, and tell Mrs. Hamley 
how much obliged to her we are for thinking of us." 

"I'm afraid I can't wait for a note," said Roger. " I must take 
a message instead, for I have to meet my father at one o'clock, and 
it's close upon it now." 

When he was gone, Molly felt so light-hearted at the thoughts of 
Thursday that she could hardly attend to what the Miss Brownings 
were saying. One was talking about the pretty muslin gown which 
Molly had sent to the Avash only that morning, and contriving how it 
could be had back again in time for her to wear ; and the other, 
Miss Phoabe, totally inattentive to her sister's speaking for a wonder, 
was piping out a separate strain of her own, and singing Pioger 
Hamley's praises. 

" Such a fine-looking young man, and so courteous and affable. 
Like the young men of our youth now, is he not, sister ? And yet 
they all say Mr. Osborne is the handsomest. What do you think, 
child?" 

" I've never seen Mr. Osborne," said Molly, blushing, and 
hating herself for doing so. Why was it ? She had never seen him 
as she said. It was only that her fancy had dwelt on him so much. 



166 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

He was gone — all the gentlemen were gone before tlie carriage, 
wliicli came to fetch Molly on Thursday, reached Hamley Hall. But 
Molly was almost glad, she was so much afraid of being disapjoointed. 
Besides, she had her dear Mrs. Hamley the more to herself; the 
quiet sit in the morning-room, talking poetry and romance ; the mid- 
day saunter into the garden, brilliant with autumnal flowers and 
glittering dew-drops on the gossamer webs that stretched from scarlet 
to blue, and thence to purple and yellow petals. As they were 
sitting at lunch, a strange man's voice and step were heard in the 
hall ; the door was opened, and a young man came in, who could be 
no other than Osborne. He was beautiful and languid-looking, 
almost as frail in appearance as his mother, whom he strongly 
resembled. This seeming delicacy made him appear older than he 
was. He was dressed to perfection, and yet with easy carelessness. 
He came up to his mother, and stood by her, holding her baud, 
while his eyes sought Molly, not boldly or impertinently, but as if 
appraising her critically. 

" Yes ! I'm back again. Bullocks, I find, are not in my line. 
I only disappointed my father in not being able to appreciate their 
merits, and, I'm afraid, I didn't care to learn. And the smell was 
insufierable on such a hot day." 

" My dear boy, don't make apologies to me ; keep them for your 
father. I'm only too glad to have you back. Miss Gibson, this tall 
fellow is my son Osborne, as I daresay you have guessed. Osborne — 
Miss Gibson. Now, what will you have ?" 

He looked round the table as he sate down. " Nothing here," 
said he. " Isn't there some cold game-pie ? I'll ring for that." 

Molly was trying to reconcile the ideal with the real. The ideal 
was agile, yet powerful, with Greek features and an eagle-eye, 
capable of enduring long fasting, and indifferent as to what he ate. 
The real was almost effeminate in movement, though not in figure ; 
he had the Greek features, but his blue eyes had a cold, w^ary 
expression in them. He was dainty in eating, and had anything but 
a Homeric appetite. However, Molly's hero was not to eat more 
than Ivanhoe, when he was Friar Tuck's guest ; and, after all, with 
a little alteration, she began to think Mr. Osborne Hamley might 
turn out a poetical, if not a chivalrous hero. He was extremely 
attentive to his mother, which pleased Molly, and, in return, 
Mrs. Hamley seemed charmed with him to such a degree that Molly 
once or twice fancied that mother and son would have been happier 



MOLLY FINDS HERSELF PATRONIZED. 167 

in lier absence. Yet, again, it struck on tlie skrewd, if simple girl, 
that Osborne was mentally squinting at her in the conversation which 
was directed to his mother. There were little turns and * fioriture ' 
of speech which Molly could not help feeling were graceful antics of 
language not common in the simple daily intercourse between mother 
and son. But it was flattering rather than otherwise to perceive that 
a very fine young man, who was a poet to boot, should think it worth 
while to talk on the tight rope for her benefit. And before the 
afternoon was ended, without there having been any direct conversa- 
tion between Osborne and Molly, she had reinstated him on his 
throne in her imagination ; indeed, she had almost felt herself dis- 
loyal to her dear Mrs. Hamley when, in the first hour after her 
introduction, she had questioned his claims on his mother's idolatiy. 
His beauty came out more and more, as he became animated in some 
discussion with her; and all his attitudes, if a little studied, were 
graceful in the extreme. Before Molly left, the squire and Roger 
returned from Canonbury. 

" Osborne here 1 " said the squire, red and panting. " Why the 
deuce couldn't you tell us you were coming home "? I looked about 
for you everywhere, just as we were going into the ordinary. I 
wanted to introduce you to Grantley, and Fox, and Lord Forrest — 
men from the other side of the county, whom you ought to know ; 
and Roger there missed above half his dinner hunting about for you ; 
and all the time you'd stole away, and were quietly sitting here with 
the women. I wish you'd let me know the next time you make ofi. 
I've lost half my pleasure in looking at as fine a lot of cattle as I 
ever saw, with thinking you might be having one of your old attacks 
of faintness."' 

" I should have had one, I think, if I'd stayed longer in that 
atmosphere. But I'm sorry if I've caused you anxiety." '' 

"Well! well!" said the squire, somewhat mollified. "And 
Roger, too, — there I've been sending him here and sending him 
there all the afternoon." 4. 

" I didn't mind it, sir. I was only soriy you were so uneasy. I 
thought Osborne had gone home, for I knew it wasn't much in his 
way," said Roger. 

Molly intercepted a glance between the two brothers — a look of 
true confidence and love, which suddenly made her like them both 
under the aspect of relationship — new to her observation. 

Roger came up to her, and sat down by her. 



168 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Well, and how are you getting on with Huher; don't you find 
him very interesting ?" 

"I'm afraid," said Molly, penitently, "I haven't read much. 
Miss Brownings like me to talk ; and, besides, there is so much to 
do at home before papa comes back ; and Miss Browning doesn't like 
me to go without her. I know it sounds nothing, but it does take 
np a great deal of time." 

" When is your father coming back ? " 

" Next Tuesday, I believe. He cannot stay long away." 

" I shall ride over and pay my respects to Mrs. Gibson," said he. 
" I shall come as soon as I may. Your father has been a very kind 
friend to me ever since I was a boy. And when I come, I shall 
expect my pupil to have been very diligent," he concluded, smiling 
his kind, pleasant smile at idle Molly. 

Then the carriage came round, and she had the long solitary 
drive back to Miss Brownings'. It was dark out of doors when she 
got there ; but Miss Phoebe was standing on the stairs, with a 
lighted candle in her hand, peering into the darkness to see Molly 
come in. 

" Oh, Molly ! I thought you'd never come back. Such a piece 
of news ! Sister has gone to bed ; she's had a headache — with the 
excitement, I think ; but she says it's new bread. Come upstairs 
softly, my dear, and I'll tell you what it is ! Who do you think has 
bsen here, — drinking tea with us, too, in the most condescending 
manner ?" 

" Lady Harriet ? " said Molly suddenly enlightened by the word 
* condescending.' 

" Yes. Why, how did j'ou guess it? But, after all, her call, at 
any rate in the first instance, was upon you. Oh, dear Molly ! if 
you're not in a hurry to go to bed, let me sit down quietly and tell 
you all about it ; for my heart jumps into my mouth still when I 
think of how I was caught. She — that is, her ladyship — left the 
carriage at '..Jhe George,' and took to her feet to go shopping — just 
as you or I may have done many a time in our lives. And sister 
was taking her forty winks ; and I was sitting with my gown up 
above my keees and my feet on the fender, pulling out my grand- 
mother's lace which I'd been washing. The worst has yet to be told. 
I'd taken off my cap, for I thought it was getting dusk and no one 
would come, and there was I in my black silk skull-cap, when Nancy 
put her head in, and whispered, ' There's a lady downstairs — a real 



MOLLY FINDS HERSELF PATRONIZED. 1G9 

grfincl one, by lier talk ;' and in there came my Lady Harriet, so 
sweet and pretty in her ways, it was some time before I forgot I had 
never a cap on. Sister never wakened ; or never roused up, so to 
say. She says she thought it was Nancy bringing in the tea when 
she heard some one moving ; for her ladyship, as soon as she saw 
the state of the case, came and knelt down on the rug by me, and 
begged my pardon so prettily for having followed Nancy upstairs 
without waiting for permission ; and was so taken by my old lace, 
and wanted to know how I washed it, and where you were, and when 
you'd be back, and when the happy couple would be back : till sister 
wakened — she's always a little bit put out, you know, when she first 
wakens from her afternoon nap, — and, without turning her head to 
sec who it was, she said, quite sharp, — ' Buzz, buzz, buzz ! When 
will you learn that whispering is more fidgeting than talking out loud ? 
I've not been able to sleep at all for the chatter you and Nancy have 
been keeping up all this time.' You know that was a little fancy of 
sister's, for she'd been snoring away as naturally as could be. So I 
went to her, and leant over her, and said in a low voice, — 

" ' Sister, it's her ladyship and me that has been conversing.' 
" ' Ladyship here, ladyship there ! have you lost your wits, 
Phoebe, that you talk such nonsense — and in your skull-cap, too ! " 

"By this time she was sitting up — and, looking round her, she 
saw Lady Harriet, in her' velvets and silks, sitting on our rug, smiling, 
her bonnet off, and her pretty hair all bright with the blaze of the 
fire. My word ! sister was up on her feet directly ; and she dropped 
her curtsey, and made her excuses for sleeping, as fast as might be, 
while I went off to put on my best cap, for sister might well say I 
was out of my wits to go on chatting to an earl's daughter in an old 
black silk skull-cap. Black silk, too ! when, if I'd only known she 
was coming, I might have put on my new brown silk, lying idle m 
niy top drawer. And when I came back, sister was ordering tea for 
her ladyship, — our tea, I mean. So I took my turn at talk, and 
sister slipped out to put on her Sunday silk. But I don't think we 
were quite so much at our ease with her ladyship as when I sat 
pulling out my lace in my skull-cap. And she was quite struck with 
our tea, and asked where we got it, for she had never tasted any like 
it before ; and I told her we gave only 3s. 4d. a pound for it, at 
Johnson's — (sister says I ought to have told her the price of our 
company-tea, which is fis. a pound, only that was not what we were 
drinking ; for, as ill-luck would have it, we'd none of it in the house) 



170 AVIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

— and she said she would send us some of liers, all tlie way from 
Russia or Prussia, or some out-of-the-v»'ay place, and we were to 
compare and see which we liked Lest ; and if we liked hers best, she 
could get it for us at 3s. a pound. And she left her love for you ; 
and, though she was going away, you were not to forget her. Sister 
thought such a message would set you up too much, and told me 
she would not he chargeable for the giving it you. ' But,' I said, 
* a message is a message, and it's on Molly's own shoulders if she's 
set up by it. Let us show her an example of humility, sister, 
though v/e have been sitting cheek-by-jowl in such company.' So 
sister humphed, and said she'd a headache, and went to bed. And 
now you may tell me your news, my dear." 

So Molly told her small events ; which, interesting as they might 
have been at other times to the gossip-loving and sympathetic Miss 
Phoebe, were rather pale in the stronger light reflected from the visit 
of an earl's daughter. 



( 171 ) 



CHAPTER XY. 

THE NEW :MAMMA. 

Ox Tuesday afternoon Molly retuiTied home — to tlie liome wliicli 
was already strange, and vrliat Yrarwicksliire people -would call 
" unked," to her. Xew paint, new paper, new colom-s ; grim 
seiTants dressed in theii* best, and objecting to every change — from 
their master's marriage to the new oilcloth in the hall, " which 
tripped 'em up, and threw 'em do-ma, and was cold to the feet, and 
smelt just abominable." All these complaints Molly had to listen 
to, and it was not a cheerful preparation for the reception which she 
already felt to be so formidable. 

The sound of their carriage-wheels was heard at last, and Molly 
went to the front door to meet them. Her father got out first, and 
took her hand and held it while he helped his bride to alight. Then 
he kissed her fondly, and passed her on to his wife ; but her veil 
was so securely (and becomingly) fastened down, that it was some 
time before Mrs. Gibson could get her lips clear to greet her new 
daughter. Then there was luggage to be seen about ; and both 
the travellers were occupied in this, while Molly stood by trembfing 
with excitement, unable to help, and only conscious of Betty's 
rather cross looks, as heavy box after heavy bos jammed up the 
passage. 

" Molly, my dear, show — your mamma to her room ! " 
Mr. Gibson had hesitated, because the question of the name by 
which Molly was to call her new relation had never occurred to him 
before. The colour flashed into Molly's foce. Was she to call her 
" mamma ? " — the name long appropriated in her mind to some one 
else — to her o-mi dead mother. The rebellious heart rose against it. 
but she said nothing. She led the way upstairs, Mrs. Gibson turn- 



172 -WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

ing round, from time to time, with some fresh direction as to which 
hag or trunk she needed most. She hardly spoke to Molly till they 
were hoth in the newly-furnished hedroom, where a small fire had 
been lighted by Molly's orders. 

" Now, my love, we can embrace each other in peace. dear, 
how tired I am!" — (after the embrace had been accomplished). 
" My spirits are so easily affected with fatigue ; but your dear papa 
has been kindness itself. Dear ! what an old-fashioned bed ! And 
what a — But it doesn't signify. By-and-by we'll renovate the 
house — won't we, my dear ? And you'll be my little maid to-night, 
and help mc to arrange a few things, for I'm just worn out with the 
day's journey." 

" I've ordered a sort of tea-dinner to be ready for j'ou," said 
Molly. " Shall I go and tell them to send it in ? " 

" I'm not sure if I can go down again to-night. It would be 
very comfortable to have a little table brought in here, and sit in my 
dressing-gown by this cheerful fire. But, to be sure, there's your 
dear papa ? I really don't think he would eat anything if I were 
not there. One must not think about oneself, you know. Yes, I'll 
come down in a quarter of an hour." 

But Mr. Gibson had found a note awaiting him, with an imme- 
diate summons to an old patient, dangerously ill ; and, snatching a 
mouthful of food while his horse was being saddled, he had to 
resume at once his old habits of attention to his profession above 
eveiythiug. 

As soon as Mrs. Gibson found that he was not likely to miss her 
presence — he had eaten a very tolerable lunch of bread and cold 
meat in solitude, so her fears about his appetite in her absence were 
not well founded-^she desired to have her meal upstairs in her own 
room ; and poor Molly, not daring to tell the servants of this whim, 
had to carry up first a table, which, however small, was too heavy 
for her ; and afterwards all the choice portions of the meal, which 
she had taken great pains to arrange on the table, as she had seen 
such things done at Hamley, intermixed with fruit and flowers that 
had that morning been sent in from various great houses where 
Mr. Gibson was respected and valued. How pretty Molly had 
thought her handiwork an hour or two before ! How dreary it 
seemed as, at last released from Mrs. Gibson's conversation, she 
sate down in solitude to cold tea and the drumsticks of the chicken ! 
No one to look at her preparations, and admire her deft-handeduess- 



THE NEW MAMMA. 173 

and taste ! She had thought that her father wouhl be gratified by 
it, and then he had never seen it. She had meant her cares as an 
ofierlng of good-will to her stepmother, who even now was ringing 
her bell to have the tray taken away, and Miss Gibson summoned to 
her bedroom. 

Molly hastily finished her meal, and went upstairs again. 

" I feel so lonely, darling, in this strange house; do come and 
be with me, and help me to unpack. I think your dear papa might 
have put oft' his visit to Mr. Craven Smith for just this one 
evening." 

" Mr. Craven Smith couklu't put off his dying," said Molly, 
bluntly. 

" You droll girl ! " said Mrs. Gibson, with a faint laugh. " But 
if this Mr. Smith is dying, as you say, what's the use of your father's 
going off to him in such a hurry ? Does he expect any legacy, or 
anything of that kind ? ' ' 

Molly bit her lips to prevent herself from saying something dis- 
agreeable. She only answered, — 

" I don't quite know that he is dying. The man said so ; 
and papa can sometimes do something to make the last struggle 
easier. At any rate, it's always a comfort to the family to have 
him." 

" What dreary knowledge of death you have learned for a girl 
of your age ! Eeally, if I had heard all these details of your 
father's profession, I doubt if I could have brought myself to have 
him ! " 

"He doesn't make the illness or the death; he does his best 
against them. I call it a very fine thing to think of what he does 
or tries to do. And you will think so, too, when you see how he is 
watched for, and how people welcome him ! " * 

" "Well, don't let us talk any more of such gloomy things, to- 
night ! I think I shall go to bed at once, I am so tired, if j'ou will 
only sit by me till I get sleepy, darling. If you will talk to me, the 
sound of your voice will soon send me off." 

Molly got a book, and read her stepmother to sleep, preferring 
that to the harder task of keeping up a continual murmur of speech. 

Then she stole down and went into the dining-room, where the 
fire was gone out ; purposely neglected by the servants, to mark 
their displeasure at their new mistress's having had her tea in her 
own room. Molly managed to light it, however, before her father 



174 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

came home, and collected and re-arrauged some comfortable food for 
liim. Tlien she knelt down again on the hearth-rug, gazing into 
the fire in a dreamy reverie, which had enough of sadness about 
it to cause the tear to drop unnoticed from her eyes. But she 
jumped up, and shook herself into brightness at the sound of her 
father's step. 

" How is Mr. Craven Smith ? " said she. 

" Dead. He just recognized me. He was one of my first 
patients on coming to Hollingford." 

Mr. Gibson sate down in the arm-chair made ready for him, and 
wanned his hands at the fire, seeming neither to need food nor talk, 
as he went over a train of recollections. Then he roused himself 
from his sadness, and looking round the room, he said briskly 
enough, — 

" And wherc's the new mamma ? " 

" She was tired, and went to bed early. Oh, papa ! must I call 
her ' mamma ?' " 

"I should like it," replied he, with a slight contraction of the 
brows. 

Molly was silent. She put a cup of tea near him ; he stirred it, 
and sipped it, and then he recurred to the subject. 

" ^Vhy shouldn't you call her ' mamma ? ' I'm sure she means 
to do the duty of a mother to you. We all may make mistakes, and 
her ways may not be quite all at once our ways ; but at any rate let 
us start with a family bond between us." 

What would Koger say w'as right ? — that was the question that 
rose to Molly's mind. She had always spoken of her father's new 
wife as Mrs. Gibson, and had once burst out at Miss Brownings' 
with a protestation that she never would call her " mamma." She 
did not feel drawn to her new relation by their intercourse that 
evening. She kept silence, though she knew her father was expect- 
ing an answer. At last he gave up his expectation, and turned to 
another subject ; told about their journey, questioned her as to the 
Hamleys, the Brownings, Lady Harriet, and the afternoon they had 
passed together at the Manor-house. But there was a certain hard- 
ness and constraint in his manner, and in hers a heaviness and 
absence of mind. All at once she said, — 

" Papa, I will call her ' mamma ! ' " 

He took her hand, and grasped it tight ; but for an instant or 
two he did not speak. Then he said, — 



THE NEW MAJDIA. 175 

" You won't be sorry for it, IMolh', when you come to lie as poor 
Craven Smith did to-night." 

For some time the murmurs and grumblings of the two elder 
servants were confined to Molly's ears, then they spread to her 
father's, who, to Molly's dismay, made summary work with them. 

" You don't like Mrs. Gibson's ringing her bell so often, don't 
you ? You've been spoilt, I'm afraid ; but if you don't conform to 
my wife's desires, you have the remedy in your own hands, you 
knov,'." 

"What seiwant ever resisted the temptation to give warning after 
such a speech as that ? Betty told Molly she was going to leave, in 
as indifferent a manner as she could possibly assume towards the 
girl, whom she had tended and been about for the last sixteen j'cars. 
Molly had hitherto considered her former nurse as a fixture in the 
house ; she would almost as soon have thought of her father's pro- 
posing to sever the relationship betv/een them ; and here was Betty 
coolly talking over whether her next place should be in town or 
country. But a great deal of this was assumed hardness. In a week 
or two Betty was in floods of tears at the prospect of leaving her 
nursling, and would fain have stayed and answered all the bells in 
the house once every quarter of an hour. Even Mr. Gibson's mas- 
culine heart was touched by the soitow of the old servant, which 
made itself obvious to him eveiy time he came across her by her 
broken voice and her swollen eyes. 

One day he said to Molly, " I vrish you'd ask your mamma if 
Betty might not stay, if she made a proper apology, and all that sort 
of thing." 

" I don't much think it will be of any use," said Molly, in a 
mournful voice. " I know she is vrriting, or has written, about some 
under-housemaid at the Towers." ^ 

" Well ! — all I want is peace and a decent quantity of cheerful- 
ness when I come home. I see enough of tears at other people's 
houses. After all, Betty has been with us sixteen years — a sort of 
service of the antique world. But the woman may be happier else- 
where. Bo as 5-ou hke about asking mamma ; only if she agrees, I 
shall be quite willing." 

So Molly tried her hand at making a request to that effect to 
Mrs. Gibson. Her instinct told her she should be unsuccessful ; but 
surely favour was never refused in so soft a tone. 

" My dear girl, I should never have thought of sending an old 



170 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

servant away, — one who lias had the charge of you from your birth, 
or nearly so. I coukl not have had the heart to do it. She might 
have stayed for ever for me, if she had only attended to all my 
wishes ; and I am not unreasonable, am I ? But, you see, she com- 
plained ; and when your dear papa spoke to her, she gave warning ; 
and it is quite against my principles ever to take an apology from a 
servant who has given warning." 

" She is so sorry," pleaded Molly ; " she says she will do anything 
you wish, and attend to all your orders, if she may only stay." 

" But, sweet one, you seem to forget that I cannot go against my 
principles, however much I may be sorry for Betty. She should not 
have given way to ill-temper, as I said before ; although I never 
liked her, and considered her a most inefficient servant, thoroughly 
spoilt by having had no mistress for so long, I should have borne 
with her — at least, I think I should — as long as I could. Now I 
have all but engaged Maria, who was under-housemaid at the Towers, 
so don't let me hear any more of Betty's sorrow, or anybody else's 
sorrow, for I'm sure, Avhat with your dear papa's sad stories and 
other things, I'm getting quite low." 

Molly was silent for a moment or two. 

" Have you quite engaged Maria ? " asked she. 

" No — I said ' all but engaged.' Sometimes one would think you 
did not hear things, dear Molly ! " replied Mrs. Gibson, petulantly. 
" Maria is living in a place where they don't give her as much wages 
as she deserves. Perhaps they can't afford it, poor things ! I'm 
always sorry for poverty, and would never speak hardly of those who 
are not rich ; but I have offered her two pounds more than she gets 
tit present, so I think she'll leave. At any rate, if they increase her 
wa<^es, I shall increase my offer in proportion ; so I think I'm sure 
to get her. Such a genteel girl ! — always brings iu a letter on a 
salver ! " 

" Poor Betty ! " said Molly, softly. 

"Poor old soul! I hope she'll profit by the lesson, I'm sure," 
sighed out Mrs. Gibson; "but it's a pity we hadn't Maria before 
the county families began to call." 

Mrs. Gibson had been highly gratified by the circumstance of so 
many calls " from county families." Her husband was much re- 
spected ; and many ladies from various halls, courts, and houses, 
who had profited by his services towards themselves and their 
families, thouglit it right to pay his new wife the attention of a call 



THE NEW MAMJIA. 177 

^vllen they drove into Hollingforcl to shop. Tho state of expectation 
into Avhich these calls threw Mrs. Gibson rather flimiuished Mr. 
Gibson's domestic comfort. It was awkward to be cai-rying hot, 
savoury-smelling dishes from the kitchen to the dining-room at the 
very time when high-born ladies, with noses of aristocratic refine- 
ment, might be calling. Still more awkward was the accident which 
happened in consequence of clumsy Betty's haste to open the front 
door to a lofty footman's ran-tan, which caused her to set down the 
basket containing the dirty plates right in his mistress's way, as she 
stepped gingerly through the comparative darkness of the hall ; and 
then the young men, leaving the dining-room quietly enough, but 
bursting with long-repressed giggle, or no longer restraining their 
tendency to practical joking, no matter who might be in the passage 
when they made their exit. The remedy proposed by Mrs. Gibson 
for all these distressing grievances was a late dinner. The luncheon 
for the young men, as she observed to her husband, might be sent 
into the surgery. A few elegant cold trifles for herself and Molly 
would not scent the house, and she would always take care to have 
some little dainty ready for him. He acceded, but unwillingly, for it 
was an innovation on the habits of a lifetime, and he felt as if he 
should never be able to arrange his rounds aright with this new- 
fangled notion of a six o'clock dinner. 

" Don't get any dainties for me, my dear; bread-aud-cheese is 
the chief of my diet, like it was that of the old woman's." 

"I know nothing of your old woman," replied his wife; "but 
really I cannot allow cheese to come beyond the kitchen." 

"Then I'll eat it there," said he. "It's close to the stable- 
yard, and if I come in in a hurry I can get it in a moment." 

" Really, Mr. Gibson, it is astonishing to compare your appear- 
ance and manners with your tastes. You look such a gentleman, ^as 
dear Lady Cumnor used to say." 

Then the cook left ; also an old servant, though not so old a one 
as Betty. The cook did not like the trouble of late dinners ; and, 
being a Methodist, she objected on religious grounds to trying any of 
Mrs. Gibson's new receipts for French dishes. It was not scriptural, 
she said. There was a deal of mention of food in the Bible ; but it 
was of sheep ready dressed, which meant mutton, and of wine, and 
of brcad-and-milk, and figs and raisins, of fatted calves, a good 
well-browned fillet of veal, and such like ; but it had always gone 
against her conscience to cook swine-flesh and make raised pork-pies. 
Vol. I. 12 



178 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

and now if she was to be set to cook lieathen dishes after the fashion 
of the Papists, she'd sooner give it all up together. So the cook 
followed in Betty's track, and Mr. Gibson had to satisfy his healthy 
English appetite on badly-made omelettes, rissoles, Yol-au-vents, 
croquets, and timbales ; never being exactly sure what he was 
eating. 

He had made up his mind before his marriage to yield in trides, 
and be firm in greater things. But the differences of opinion about 
trifles arose every day, and were perhaps more annoying than if they 
had related to things of more consequence. Molly knew her father's 
looks as v/ell as she knew her alphabet ; his wife did not ; and being 
an unperceptive person, except when her own interests were depen- 
dent upon another person's humour, never found out how he was 
worried by all the small daily concessions which he made to her will 
or her v.'hims. He never allowed himself to put any regret into 
shape, even in his own mind ; he repeatedly reminded himself of his 
wife's good qualities, and comforted himself by thinking they should 
work together better as time rolled on ; but he was very angiy at a 
bachelor great-uncle of Mr. Coxe's, who, after taking no notice of 
his red-headed nephew for years, suddenly sent for him, after the old 
man had partially recovered from a serious attack of illness, and 
appointed him his heir, on condition that his great-nephew remained 
with him during the remainder of his life. This had happened 
almost directly after Mr. and Mrs. Gibson's return from their 
wedding journey, and once or twice since that time Mr. Gibson had 
found himself wondering why the deuce old Benson could not have 
made up his mind sooner, and so have rid his house of the unwelcome 
presence of the young lover. To do Mr. Coxa justice, in the very 
last conversation he had as a pupil vrith Mr. Gibson he had said, 
with hesitating awkwardness, that perhaps the new circumstances in 
which he should be placed might make seme difference with regard 
to Mr. Gibson's opinion on — 

*' Not at all," said Mr. Gibson, quickly. " You are both of you 
too young to knov/ your own minds ; and if my daughter was sillj' 
enough to be in love, she should never have to calculate her happi- 
ness on the chances of an old man's death. I daresay he'll dis- 
inherit you after all. He may do, and then you'd be worse off than 
ever. No ! go away, and forget all this nonsense ; and when you've 
done, come back and see us ! " 

So Mr. Coxe went away, with an oath of unalterable faithfulness 



THE NEW MAMMA. 179 

iu his heart ; and Mr. Gibson had uuwilliugl}^ to fulfil an old pro- 
mise made to a gentleman farmer in the neighbourhood a j^ear or two 
before, and to take the second son of Mr. Browne in young Coxe's 
place. He was to be the last of the race of pupils, and h-e was 
rather more than a year younger than Molly. Mr. Gibson trusted, 
that there would be no repetition of the Coxe romance. 



12—2 



( 180 ) 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE BRIDE AT HOME. 

Among the " county people " (as Mrs. Gibson termed them) who 
called upon her as a bride, were the two young Mr. Hamleys. The 
squire, their father, had done his congratulations, as far as he ever 
intended to do them, to Mr. Gibson himself when he came to the 
hall ; but Mrs. Hamley, unable to go and pay visits herself, anxious 
to show attention to her kind doctor's new wife, and with perhaps a 
little sympathetic curiosity as to how Molly and her stepmother got 
on together, made her sons ride over to Hollingford with her cards 
and apologies. They came into the newly-furnished drawing-room, 
looking bright and fresh from their ride : Osborne first, as usual, 
perfectly dressed for the occasion, and with the sort of fine manner 
which sate so well upon him ; Roger, looking like a strong-built, 
cheerful, intelligent country farmer, followed in his brother's train. 
Mrs. Gibson was dressed for receiving callers, and made the effect 
she always intended to produce, of a very pretty woman, no longer 
in first youth, but with such soft manners and such a caressing voice, 
that people forgot to wonder what her real age might be. Molly was 
better dressed than formerly ; her stepmother saw after that. She 
disliked anything old or shabby, or out of taste about her ; it hurt 
her eye ; and she had already fidgeted Molly into a new amount of 
care about the manner in which she put on her clothes, arranged her 
hair, and was gloved and shod. Mrs. Gibson had tried to put her 
through a course of rosemary washes and creams in order to improve 
her tanned complexion ; but about that Molly was eithel^ forgetful or 
rebellious, and Mrs. Gibson could not well come up to the girl's bed- 
room every night and see that she daubed her face and neck over 
with the cosmetics so carefully provided for her. Still her appear- 
ance was extremely improved, even to Osborne's critical eye. Roger 



THE BRIDE AT HOME. 181 

sought rather to discover in her looks and expression whether she 
was happy or not ; his mother had especially charged him to note all 
these signs. 

Oshorne and Mrs. Gihson made themselves agreeable to each 
other according to the approved fashion when a young man calls on a 
middle-aged bride. They talked of the " Shakspeare and musical 
glasses " of the day, each vieing with the other in their knowledge of 
London topics. Molly heard fragments of their conversation in the 
pauses of silence between Roger and herself. Her hero was coming 
out in quite a new character ; no longer literary or poetical, or 
romantic, or critical, he was now full of the last new play, the singers 
at the opera. He had the advantage over Mrs. Gibson, who, in fact, 
only spoke of these things from hearsay, from listening to the talk at 
the Towers, while Osborne had run up from Cambridge two or three 
times to hear this, or to see that wonder of the season. But she had 
the advantage over him in greater boldness of invention to eke out 
her facts ; and besides she had more skill in the choice and arrange- 
ment of her words, so as to make it appear as if the opinions that 
were in reality quotations, were formed by herself from actual 
■experience or personal observation ; such as, in speaking of the 
mannerisms of a famous Italian singer, she would ask, — 

" Did you observe her constant trick of heaving her shoulders and 
clasping her hands together before she took a high note ? " — which 
was so said as to imply that Mrs. Gibson herself had noticed this 
trick. Molly, who had a pretty good idea by this time of how her 
stepmother had passed the last year of her life, listened with no 
small bewilderment to this conversation ; but at length decided that 
she must misunderstand what they were saying, as she could not 
gather up the missing links for the necessity of replying to Roger's 
questions and remarks. Osborne was not the same Osborne he was 
when with his mother at the Hall. 

Roger saw Molly glancing at his brother. 

"You think my brother looking ill?" said he, lowering his 
voice. 

" No — not exactly." 

"He is not well. Both my father and I are anxious about 
him. That run on the Continent did him harm, instead of good ; 
and his disappointment at his examination has told upon him, I'm 
.afraid." 

" I was not thinking he looked ill ; only changed somehow." 



182 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Ho says he must go back to Cambridge soon. Possibly it may 
do him good ; and I shall be off next week. This is a farewell A'isit 
to you, as well as one of congratulation to Mrs. Gibson." 

** Your mother will feel your both going away, won't she ? But 
of course young men vvill always have to live away from home." 

*' Yes," he replied. " Still she feels it a good deal; and I'm 
not satisfied about her health either. You will go out and see her 
sometimes, will you ? she is very fond of you." 

*' If I may," saidMolI}-, unconsciously glancing at her stepmother. 
She had an uncomfortable instinct that, in spite of Mrs. Gibson's 
own perpetual flow of words, she could, and did, hear cverj'thing 
that fell from Molly's lips. 

" Do you want any more books ? " said he. " If you do, make 
a list out, and send it to my mother before I leave, next Tuesday, 
After I am gone, there v.'ill be no one to go into the library and pick 
them out." 

As soon as they had left, Mrs. Gibson began her usual comments 
on the departed visitors. 

" I do like that Osborne Hamley ! What a nice fellov/ he is! 
Somehow, I always do like oldest sons. He will have the estate, 
won't he ? I shall ask your dear papa to encourage him to come 
about the house. He will be a very good, very pleasant acquaintance 
for you and Cynthia. The other is but a loutish young fellow, to my 
mind ; there is no aristocratic bearing about him. I suppose he 
takes after his mother, who is but a parveuue, I've heard them say 
at the Towers." 

Molly was spiteful enough to have gi'eat pleasure in saying, — 

" I think I've heard her father was a Russian merchant, and 
imported tallow and hemp. Mr. Osborne Hamley is exti-emely like 
her." 

" Indeed ! But there's no calculating these things. Anyhow, he 
is the perfect gentleman in appearance and manner. The estate is 
entailed, is it not ?" 

" I know nothing about it," said Molly. 

A short silence ensued. Then Mrs. Gibson said, — 

" Do you know, I almost think I must get dear papa to give a 
little dinner-party, and ask Mr. Osborne Hamley ? I should like to 
have him feel at home in this house. It vvould be something cheerful 
for him after the duluess and solitude of Hamley Hall. For the old 
people don't visit much, I believe ? " 



THE BRIDE AT HOME. 188 

" He's going back to Cambridge next week," saiJ Molly. 
'• Is he ? Well, then, we'll put oft our little dinner till Cynthia 
comes home. I should like to have some young society for her, 
poor darling, when she returns." 

" When is she coming?" said Molly, v/ho had always a longing 
curiosity for this same Cynthia's return. 

" Oh ! I'm not sure ; perhaps at the new year — perhaps not till 
Easter. I must get this drawing-room all new furnished first ; and 
then I mean to fit up her room and yours just alike. They are just 
the same size, only on opposite sides of the passage." 

"Are you going to new-farnish that room?" said Molly, in 
astonishment at the never-ending changes. 

" Yes ; and yours, too, darling ; so don't be jealous." 
" Oh, please, mamma, not mine," said Molly, taking in the idea 
for the first time, 

" Yes, dear ! You shall have yours done as well. A little 
French bed, and a new paper, and a pretty cai-pet, and a 
dressed-up toilet-table and glass, will make it look quite a different 
place." 

" But I don't want it to look different. I like it as it is. Pray 
don't do anything to it." 

" What nonsense, child ! I never heard anything more ridiculous ! 
Most girls would be glad to get rid of furniture only fit for the 
lumber-room." 

" It was my ovrn mamma's before she was married," said Molly, 
in a very low voice ; bringing out this last plea unv/illingly, but with 
a certainty that it would not be resisted. 

Mrs. Gibson paused for a moment before she replied : 
" It's very much to your credit that you should have such feelings, 
I'm sure. But don't you think sentiment may be carried too Hav ? 
Why, we should have no new furniture at all, and should have to put 
up with worm-eaten hoiTors. Besides, my dear, Hollingford will 
seem very dull to Cynthia, after pretty, gay France, and I want to 
make the first impressions attractive. I've a notion I can settle her 
down near here ; and I want her to come in a good temper ; for, 
betv/een ourselves, my dear, she is a little, leetle wilful. You need 
not mention this to your papa." 

" But can't you do Cynthia's room, and not mine ? Please let 
mine alone." 

" No, indeed ! I couldn't agree to that. Only think what would 



184 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

be said of me by everybody ; petting my owu child and neglecting 
my husband's ! I couldn't bear it." 

** No one need know." 

" In such a tittle-tattle place as Hollingford ! Really, Molly, you 
are either very stupid or very obstinate, or else you don't care what 
hard things may be said about me : and all for a selfish fancy of your 
own ! No ! I oAve myself the justice of acting in this matter as I 
please. Every one shall know I'm not a common stepmother. 
Every penny I spend on Cynthia I shall spend on you too ; so it's no 
use talking any more about it." . 

So Molly's little white dimity bed, her old-fashioned chest of 
drawers, and her other cherished relics of her mother's maiden-days, 
were consigned to the lumber-room ; and after a while, when Cynthia 
and her great French boxes had come home, the old furniture that 
had filled up the space required for the fresh importation of trunks, 
disa2)peared likewise into the same room. 

All this time the family at the Towers had been absent ; Lady 
Cumnor had been ordered to Bath for the early part of the winter, 
and her family were with her there. On dull rainy days, Mrs. Gibson 
used to bethink her of missing " the Cumnors," for so she had taken 
to calling them since her position had become more independent of 
theirs. It marked a distinction between her intimacy in the family, 
and the reverential manner in which the townspeople were accustomed 
to speak of " the carl and the countess." Both Lady Cumnor and 
Lady Harriet wrote to their " dear Clare " from time to time. The 
former had generally some commissions that she wished to have 
executed at the Towers, or in the town ; and no one could do them 
so well as Clare, who was acquainted with all the tastes and ways of., 
the countess. These commissions were the cause of various bills 
for flys and cars from the George Inn. Mr. Gibson pointed out this 
consequence to his wife ; but she, in return, bade him remark that a 
present of game was pretty sure to follow upon the satisfactory 
execution of Lady Cumuor's wishes. Somehow, Mr. Gibson did not 
quite like this consequence either ; but ho was silent about it, at any 
rate. Lady Harriet's letters were short and amusing. She had 
that sort of regard for her old governess which prompted her to write 
from time to time, and to feel glad when the half-voluntary task was 
accomplished. So there was no real outpouring of confidence, but 
enough news of the family and gossip of the place she was in, as she 
thought would make Clare feel that she was not forgotten by her 



THE BniDE AT HOME. 185 

former pupils, intermixed with moderate but sincere expressions of 
regard. How those letters were quoted and referred to by Mrs. Gibson 
in her conversations with the HoUingford ladies ! She had found out 
their etiect at Ashcombe ; and it was not less at HoUingford. But 
she was rather perplexed at kindly messages to Molly, and at inquiries 
as to how the Miss Brownings liked the tea she had sent ; and Molly 
had first to explain, and then to narrate at full length, all the 
occurrences of the afternoon at Ashcombe Manor-house, and Lady 
Harriet's subsequent call upon her at Miss Brownings'. 

"What nonsense!" said Mrs. Gibson, with some annoyance. 
*' Lady Harriet only went to see you out of a desire of amusement. 
She would only make fun of Miss Brownings, and those tv.'o will be 
quoting her and talking about her, just as if she was their intimate 
friend." 

" I don't think she did make fun of them. She really seemed as 
if she had been very kind." 

" And you suppose you know her ways better than I do vrho have 
known her these fifteen years ? I tell you she turns every one into 
ridicule who does not belong to her set. \Yhy, she used always to 
speak of Miss Brownings as ' Pecksy and Flapsy.' " 

" She promised me she would not," said Molly driven to bay. 

" Promised you ! — Lady Harriet ? What do you mean ?" 

" Only — she spoke of them as Pecksy and Flapsy — ^and when 
she talked of coming to call on me at their house, I asked her not 
to come if she was going to to make fun of them." 

" Upon my word ! with all my long acquaintance with Lady 
Harriet, I should never have ventured on such impertinence." 

" I didn't mean it as impertinence," said Molly sturdily. " And 
I don't think Lady Harriet took it as such." 

" You can't know anything about it. She can put on any kibd 
of manner." 

Just then Squire Hamley came in. It was his first call ; and 
Mrs. Gibson gave him a graceful welcome, and was quite ready to 
accept his apology for its tardiness, and to assure him that she quite 
understood the pressure of business on every landowner who farmed 
his own estate. But no such apology was made. He shook her 
hand heartily, as a mark of congratulation on her good fortune in 
having secured such a prize as his friend Gibson, but said nothing 
about his long neglect of duty. Molly, who by this time knew 
the few strong expressions of hrs countenance well, was sure that 



18G "WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

sometliing was the matter, and that he was very much clisturheJ. 
He hardly attended to Mrs. Gibson's fluent opening of conversation, 
for she had already determined to make a favourable impression on 
the father of the handsome young man who was heir to an estate, 
besides his own personal agreeableness ; but he turned to Molly, 
and, addressing her, said — almost in a low voice, as if he was 
making a confidence to her that ho did not intend Mrs. Gibson to 
hear, — 

•' Molly, we are all wrong at home ! Osborne has lost the 
fellowship at Trinity he went back to try for. Then he has gone and 
failed miserably in his degree, after all that he said, and that his 
mother said ; and I, like a fool, went and boasted about my clever son. 
I can't understand it. I never expected anything extraordinary from, 

Roger ; but Osborne ! And then it has throv/n madam into one 

of her bad fits of illness ; and she seems to have a fancy for you, 
child ! Your father came to see her this morning. Poor thing, 
she's very poorly, I'm afraid ; and she told him how she should like 
to have you about her, and he said I might fetch you. You'll come, 
won't you, my dear ? She's not a poor woman, such as many people 
think it's the only charity to be kind to, but she's just as forlorn of 
woman's care as if she was poor — worse, I daresay." 

" I'll be ready in ten minutes," said Molly, much touched by the 
squire's words and manner, never thinking of asking her step- 
mother's consent, now that she had heard that her father had given 
his. As she rose to leave the room, !Mrs. Gibson, who had only half 
heard what the squire had said, and was a little affronted at the 
exclusiveness of his confidence, said, — " My dear, v/here are you 
going?" 

" Mrs. Hamley wants mo, and papa says I may go," said Molly ; 
and almost at the same time the squire replied, — 

"My wife is ill, and as she's very fond of your daughter, she 
begged Mr. Gibson to allow her to come to the Hall for a little 
while, and he kindly said she might, and I'm come to fetch her." 

" Stop a minute, darling," said Mrs. Gibson to Molly — a slight 
cloud over her countenance, in spite of her caressing word. " I am 
sure dear papa quite forgot that you were to go out with me to-night, 
to visit people," continued she, addressing herself to the squire, 
" with whom I am quite unacquainted — and it is very uncertain if 
Mr. Gibson can return in time to accompany me — so, you see, I 
cannot allow IMolIy to go with you." 



THE BRIDE AT HOME. 187 

" I slionldn't have tliouglit it would have sij^nificil. Briclci3 are 
always brides, I suppose ; and it's their part to he timid ; hut I 
shouldn't have thought it — in this case. And my wife sets her heart 
on things, as sick people do. Well, Molly" (in a louder tone, for 
these foregoing sentences were spoken sotto voce), "we must put it 
off till to-morrow: and it's our loss, not yours," he continued, as ho 
saw the reluctance with vrhich she slowly returned to her place. 
" You'll be as gay as can be to-night, I daresay " 

" No, I shall not," broke in Molly. " I never wanted to go, and 
now I shall want it less than ever." 

"Hush, my dear," said Mrs. Gibson; and, addressing the 
squire, she added, " The visiting here is not all one could wish for so 
young a giii — no young people, no dances, nothing of gaiety ; but it 
is wrong in you, Molly, to speak against such kind friends of your 
father's as I understand these Cockerells are. Don't give so bad an 
impression of yourself to the kind squire." 

"Let her alone ! let her alone! " quoth he. "I see what she 
means. She'd rather come and be in my wife's sick-room than go 
out for this visit to-night. Is there no way of getting her off'? " 

" None whatever," said Mrs. Gibson. " An engagement is an 
engagement with me ; and I consider that she is not only engaged to 
]Mrs. Cockereil, but to mo — bound to accompany me, in my husband's 
absence." 

The squire was put out ; and when he was put out he had a 
trick of placing his hands on his knees and whistling softly to liimself. 
Molly knew this phase of his displeasure, and only hoped he would 
confine himself to this wordless expression of annoyance. It was 
pretty hard work for her to keep the tears out of her eyes ; and she 
endeavoured to think of something else, rather than dvv-ell on regrets 
and annoyances. She heard Mrs. Gibson talking on in a sw^t 
monotone, and wished to attend to what she was saying, but the 
squire's visible annoyance struck sharper on her mind. At length, 
after a pause of silence, he started up, and said, — 

" Well ! it's no use. Poor madam ; she v^'on't like it. She'll 
be disappointed ! But it's but for one evening ! — but for one even- 
ing ! She may come to-morrow, majTi't she ? Or will the dissipation 
of such an evening as she describes, be too much for her? " 

There was a touch of savage irony in his manner which fiightencd 
Mrs. Gibson into good behaviour. 

" She shall be ready at any time you name. I am so sorry : my 



188 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

foolisli shyness is in fault, I believe ; but still you must ackno^yledge 
that an engagement is an engagement." 

" Did I ever say an engagement was an elephant, madam ? 
However, there's no use saying any more about it, or I shall forget 
my manners. I'm an old tyrant, and she — lying there in bed, poor 
girl — has always given me my own way. So you'll excuse me, Mrs. 
Gibson, won't you ; and let Molly come along with me at ten 
to-morrow morning ? " 

" Certainly," said Mrs. Gibson, smiling. But when his back was 
turned, she said to Molly, — 

" Now, my dear, I must never have you exposing me to the ill- 
manners of such a man again ! I don't call him a squire ; I oall him 
a boor, or a yeoman at best. You must not go on accepting or 
rejecting in\'itations as if you were an independent young lady, Molly. 
Pay me the respect of a reference to my wishes another time, if you 
please, my dear ! " 

" Papa had said I might go," said Molly, choking a little. 

" As I am now your mamma, your references must be to me, for 
the future. But as you are to go you may as well look well dressed. 
I will lend you my new shawl for this visit, if you like it, and my set 
of green ribbons. I am always indulgent when proper respect is 
paid to me. And in such a house as Hamley Hall, no one can tell 
who may be coming and going, even if there is sickness in the family." 

" Thank you. But I don't want the shawl and the ribbons, 
please : there will be nobody there except the family. There never 
is, I think ; and now that she is so ill "—Molly was on the point of 
crying at the thought of her friend lying ill and lonely, and looking 
for her arrival. Moreover, she was sadly afraid lest the squire had 
gone off with the idea that she did not want to come — that she pre- 
ferred that stupid, stupid party at the Cockerells'. Mrs. Gibson, too, 
was sorry ; she had an uncomfortable consciousness of having given 
way to temper before a stranger, and a stranger, too, whose good 
opinion she had meant to cultivate ; and she was also annoyed at 
Molly's tearful face. 

" What can I do for you, to bring you back into good temper ? " 
she said. " First, you insist upon your knowing Lady Harriet better 
than I do — I, who have known her for eighteen or nineteen years at 
least. Then you jump at invitations without ever consulting me, or 
thinking of how awkward it would be for me to go stumping into a 
drawing-room all by myself; following my new name, too, wli'ch 



THE BRIDE AT HOME. 18D 

always makes me feel uncomfortable, it is such a sad come-down 
after Kirkpatrick ! And then, when I oifer you some of the prettiest 
things I have got, you say it does not signify how you are dressed. 
"WTiat can I do to please you, Molly ? I, who delight in nothing 

: more than peace in a family, to see you sitting there with despair 
upon your face ? " 

Molly could stand it no longer ; she went upstairs to her ovm 
room — her own smart new room, which hardly yet seemed a familiar 
place ; and began to cry so heartily and for so long a time, that she 
stopped at length for very weariness. She thought of Mrs. Hamley 
"\Tearyiug for her ; of the old Hall whose very quietness might 
become oppressive to an ailing person ; of the trust the squire had 

. had in her that she would come off directly with him. And all this 

' oppressed her much more than the querulousness of her stepmother's 

Words. 



( 190 ) 



CHAPTER XYII. 



TROUBLE AT IIAMLEY HALL. 



If Molly thouglat that peace dwelt perpetually at Hamley Hall she 
was sorely mistaken. Something was out of tune iu the whole 
establishment ; and, for a very unusual thing, the common irritation 
seemed to have produced a common bond. All the servants were old 
in their places, and were told by some one of the family, or gathered, 
from the unheeded conversation carried on before them, evei-j'thing 
that affected master or mistress or either of the young gentlemen. 
Any one of them could have told Molly that the grievance which lay 
at the root of everything, was the amount of the bills run up by 
Osborne at Cambridge, and which, now that all chance of his 
obtaining a fellowship was over, came pouring down upon the squire. 
But Molly, confident of being told by Mrs. Hamley herself anything 
which she wished her to hear, encouraged no confidences from any 
one else. 

She was struck Vvith the change iu " madam's" look as soon as 
she caught sight of her in the darkened room, lying on the sofa in 
her dressing-room, all dressed in white, which almost rivalled the 
white wanness of her face. The squire ushered Molly in with, — 

" Here she is at last ! " and Molly had scarcely imagined that he 
had so much variety in the tones of his voice — the beginning of the 
sentence was spoken in a loud congratulatory manner, while the last 
words were scarcely audible. He had seen the death-like pallor on 
his wife's face ; not a new sight, and one wdiich had been presented 
io him gradually enough, but which was now always giving him a 
fresh shock. It was a lovely tranquil winter's day; every branch and 
every twig on the trees and shrubs W'ere glittering with drops of the 
suu-melted hoar-frost ; a robin was perched on a holly -bush, piping 
cheerily ; but the blinds were down, and out of Mrs. Hamley's 



TROUBLE AT HAMLEY HALL. 191 

windows notliing of all this was to bo seen. There was even a large 
screen placed between her and the wood-fire, to keep off that cheerful 
blaze. Mrs. Hamley stretched out one hand to Molly, and held 
hers firm ; with the other she shaded her eyes. 

" She is not so well this morning, " said the squire, shaking his 
head. " But never fear, my dear one ; here's the doctor's daughter, 
nearly as good as the doctor himself. Have you had your medicine '? 
Your beef-tea ? " he continued, going about on heavy tiptoe and 
peeping into every empty cup and glass. Then he returned to the 
sofa ; looked at her for a mmute or tv^'o, and then softly kissed her, 
and told Molly he would leave her in charge. 

As if Mrs. Hamley was afraid of Molly's remarks or questions, 
she began in her turn a hasty system of interrogatories. 

" Now, dear child, tell me all ; it's no breach of confidence, for 
I shan't mention it again, and I shan't be here long. How does it 
all go on — the nev/ mother, the good resolutions ? let me help you if 
I can. I think with a girl I could have been of use — a mother does 
not knovv' boys. But tell me anything you like and Vt'ill ; don't be 
afraid of details." 

Even with Molly's small experience of illness she saw how much 
of restless fever there was in this speech ; and instinct, or some such 
gift, prompted her to tell a long story of many things — the wedding- 
day, her visit to Miss Brownings', the new furniture, Lady Harriet, 
&c., all in an easy flow of talk which was very soothing to Mrs. 
Hamley, inasmuch as it gave her something to think about beyond 
her own immediate sorrows. But Molly did not speak of her own 
grievances, nor of the new domestic relationship. Mrs. Hamley 
noticed this. 

" And you and Mrs. Gibson get on happily together ? " 
" Not always," said Molly. "You know we didn't know mucii 
of each other before we were put to live together." 

" I didn't like what the squire told me last night. He was very 
angry." 

That sore had not yet healed over ; but Molly resolutely kept 
silence, beating her brains to think of some other subject of con- 
versation. 

"Ah! I see, Molly," said Mrs. Hamley; "you won't tell me 
your sorrows, and yet, perhaps, I could have done you some good." 

"I don't like," said Molly, in a low voice. "I think papa 
wouldn't like it. And, besides, you have helped me so much — you 



192 WIVES AND DAUGIITErwS. 

and Mr. Roger Hamley. I often think of the things ho saiJ ; they 
come in so usefully, and are such a strength to me." 

" Ah, Eoger ! yes. He is to be trusted. Oh, Molly ! I've a 
great deal to say to you myself, only not now. I must have my 
medicine and try to go to sleep. Good girl ! You arc stronger than 
I am, and can do without sympathy." 

Molly was taken to another room ; the maid who conducted her 
to it told her that Mrs. Hamley had not wished her to have her 
nights disturbed, as they might very probably have been if she had 
been in her former sleeping-room. In the afternoon Mrs. Hamley 
sent for her, and with the want of reticence common to invalids, 
especially to those sufiering from long and depressing maladies, she 
told Molly of the family distress and disappointment. 

She made Molly sit down near her on a little stool, and, holding 
her hand, and looking into her eyes to catch her spoken sympathy 
from their expression quicker than she could from her words, she 
said, — 

" Osborne has so disappointed us ! I cannot understand it yet. 
And the squire was so terribly angry ! I cannot think how all the 
money was spent — advances through money-lenders, besides bills. 
The squire does not show me how angry he is now, because he's 
afraid of another attack ; but I know how angry he is. You see he 
has been spending ever so much money in reclaiming that land at 
Upton Common, and is very hard pressed himself. But it would 
have doubled the value of the estate, and so we never thought any- 
thing of economies which would benefit Osborne in the long run. 
And now the squire says he must mortgage some of the land ; and 
you can't think how it cuts him to the heart. He sold a great deal of 
timber to send the two boys to college. Osborne — oh ! what a dear, 
innocent boy he was : he was the heir, you know ; and he was so 
clever, every one said he was sure of honours and a fellowship, and 
I don't know what all ; and he did get a scholarship, and then all went 
wrong. I don't know how. That is the worst. Perhaps the squire 
wrote too angrily, and that stopped up confidence. But he might 
have told me. He would have done, I think, Molly, if he had been 
here, face to face with me. But the squire, in his anger, told him 
not to show his face at home till he had paid off the debts he had 
incurred out of his allowance. Out of two hundred and fifty a year 
to pay off more than nine hundred, one way or another ! And not to 
come home till then ! Perhaps Roger will have debts too ! He had 



TROUBLE AT HAMLEY HALL. 193 

but two Imndretl ; but, then, he was not the eldest son. The squire 
has given orders that the men are to be turned off the draining- 
works ; and I lie awake thinking of their poor families this wintry 
weather. But what shall we do ? I've never been strong, and 
perhaps, I've been extravagant in my habits ; and there were family 
traditions as to expenditure, and the reclaiming of this land. Oh ! 
Molly, Osborne was such a sweet little baby, and such a loving boy : 
so clever, too ! You know I read you some of his poetry : now, 
could a person who wrote like that do anything very wrong ? And 
yet I'm afraid he has." 

" Don't you know, at all, how the money has gone ? " asked Molly. 

" No ! not at all. That's the sting. There are tailors' bills, 
and bills for book-binding and wine and pictures — those come to four 
or five hundred ; and though this expenditure is extraordinary — 
inexplicable to such simple old folk as we are — yet it may be only 
the luxury of the present day. But the money for which he will give 
no account, — of which, indeed, we only heard through the squire's 
London agents, who found out that certain disreputable attorneys 
were making inquiries as to the entail of the estate ; — oh ! Molly, 
worse than all — I don't know how to bring myself to tell you — as to 
the age and health of the squire, his dear father" — (she began 
to sob almost hysterically ; yet she would go on talking, in spite of 
Molly's efforts to stop her) — " who held him in his arms, and blessed 
him, even before I had kissed him ; and thought always so much of 
him as his heir and first-born darling. How he has loved him ! 
How I have loved him ! I sometimes have thought of late that 
we've almost done that good Roger injustice." 

" No ! I'm sure you've not : only look at the way he loves you. 
Why, you are his first thought : he may not speak about it, but any 
one may see it. And dear, dear Mrs. Hamley," said Molly, deter- 
mined to say out all that was in her mind now that she had once got 
the word, " don't you think that it would be better not to misjudge 
Mr. Osborne Hamley ? We don't know what he has done with the 
money : he is so good (is he not ?) that he may have wanted it to 
relieve some poor person — some tradesman, for instance, pressed by 
creditors — some " 

" You forget, dear," said Mrs. Hamley, smiling a little at the 
girl's impetuous romance, but sighing the next instant, "that all the 
other bills come from tradesmen, who complain piteously of being 
kept out of their money." 

Vol. I. 13 



194 -WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Molly was nonpluKsecl for tlie moment ; but then she said, — 

" I daresay tbey imposed upon liim. I'm sure I've heard stories 
of youug men being made regular victims of by the shopkeepers in 
great towns." 

" You're a great darling, child," said Mrs. Hamley, comforted 
by Molly's strong partisanship, unreasonable and ignorant though 
it was, 

" And, besides,'' continued Molly, " some one must be acting 
wrongly in Osborne's — Mr. Osborne Hamley's, I mean — I can't help 
saying Osborne sometimes, but, indeed, I always think of him as 
Mr. Osborne " 

" Never mind, Molly, v>-hat you call him ; only go on talking. 
It seems to do me good to hear the hopeful side taken. The squire 
has been so hurt and displeased : strange-looking men coming into 
the neighbourhood, too, questioning the tenants, and grumbling 
about the last fall of timber, as if they were calculating on the 
squire's death." 

" That's just what I was going to speak about. Doesn't it show 
that they are bad men ? and would bad men scruple to impose upon 
him, and to tell lies in his name, and to ruin him ? " 

" Don't you see, you only make him out weak, instead of 
wicked ? " 

" Yes ; perhaps I do. But I don't think he is weak. You know 
yourself, dear Mrs. Hamley, how very clever he really is. Besides, 
I v/ould rather he was weak than wicked. Weak people may find 
themselves all at once strong in heaven, when they see things quite 
clearly ; but I don't think the wicked will turn themselves into 
virtuous people all at once." 

'* I think I've been very weak, Molly," said Mrs. Hamley, stroking 
Molly's curl's affectionately. " I've made such an idol of my beaii- 
tiful Osborne ; and he turns out to have feet of clay, not strong 
enough to stand firm on the ground. And that's the best viev/ of his 
conduct, too ! " 

Y/hat with his anger against his son, and his anxiety about his 
wife ; the difficulty of raising the money immediately required, and 
Ills irritation at the scarce-concealed inquiries made by strangers as 
to the value of his property, the poor squire Avas in a sad state. He 
was angry and impatient with every one who came near him ; and 
then was depressed at his own violent temper and unjust words. 
Tlie old servants, who, pcrliaps, cheated him in many small things, 



TROUBLE AT HAMLEY HALL. 195 

•were beautifully patient uuder Lis upbraitliugs. They could uuder- 
stand bursts of passion, and knew the cause of bis variable moods 
as well as be did himself. The butler, who was accustomed to argue 
M'ith his master about every fresh direction as to his work, now 
nudged Molly at dinner-time to make her eat of some dish which 
she had just been declining, and explained his conduct afterwards as 
follows : — • 

"You see, miss, me and cook had planned a dinner as would 
tempt master to eat ; but when you say, ' No, thank you,' when I 
hand you anything, master never so much as looks at it. But if you 
take a thing, and eats with a relish, why first he waits, and then he 
looks, and by-and-by he smells ; and then ho finds out as he's hungi*}-, 
and falls to eating as natural as a kitten takes to mewing. That's 
the reason, miss, as I gave you a nudge and a wink, v/hich no 
one knows better nor me Avas not manners." 

Osborne's name was never mentioned during these tete-a-tete 
meals. The sfjuire asked Molly questions about Hollingford people, 
but did not seem much to attend to her answers. He used also to 
ask her every day how she thought that his wife was ; but if Molly 
told the truth — that every day seemed to make her weaker and 
weaker — he was almost savage with the girl. He could not bear it ; 
and he would not. Nay, once he was on the point of dismissing 
Mr. Gibson because he insisted on a consultation with Dr. NichoUs, 
the great physician of the county. 

" It's nonsense thinking her so ill as that — you know it's only 
the delicacy she's had for years ; and if you can't do her any good 
in such a simple case — no pain — onlj' W'eakness and nervousness — it 
is a simple case, eh ? — don't look in that puzzled way, man ! — you'd 
better give her up altogether, and I'll take her to Bath or Brighton, 
or somewhere for change, for in my opinion it's only moping aiad 
nervousness." 

But the squire's bluff florid face was pinched with anxiety, and 
worn with the efiort of being deaf to the footsteps of fate as he said 
these words which belied his fears. 

Mr. Gibson replied very quietly, — 

" I shall go on coming to see her, and I know you will not forbid 
my visits. But I shall bring Dr. Nicholls with me the next time I 
come. I may bo mistaken in my treatment ; and I wish to God he 
may say I am mistaken in my apprehensions." 

" Don't tell mc them ! I cannot bear them ! " cried the squire. 

13—2 



196 "WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Of course we must all die; and slie must too. But not the cleverest 
doctor in England shall go ahout coolly meting out the life of such 
as her. I dai-esaj^ I shall die first. I hope I shall. But I'll knock 
any one down who speaks to me of death sitting within me. And, 
besides, I think all doctors are ignorant quacks, pretending to 
knowledge they haven't got. Ay, you may smile at me. I don't 
care. Unless you can tell me I shall die first, neither you nor 
your Dr. Nicholls shall come prophesying and croaking about this 
house." 

Mr. Gibson went away, heavy at heart at the thought of Mrs. 
Hamley's approaching death, but thinking little enough of the 
squire's speeches. He had almost forgotten them, in fact, when 
about nine o'clock that evening, a groom rode in from Hamley Hall 
in hot haste, with a note from the squire. 

Dear Gibson, — 

For God's sake forgive me if I was rude to-day. She is much 
worse. Come and spend the night here. Write for Nicholls, and 
all the physicians you want. Write before you start ofl' here. They 
may give her ease. There were Whitworth doctors much talked of 
in my youth for curing people given up by the regular doctors ; can't 
you get one of them '? I put myself in your hands. Sometimes I 
think it is the turning point, and she'll rally after this bout. I trust 
all to you. 

Yours ever, 

R. Hasiley. 
P.S. — Molly is a treasure. — God help me ! 

Of course Mr. Gibson went ; for the first time since his marriage 
cutting short Mrs. Gibson's querulous lamentations oyer her life, 
as involved in that of a doctor called out at all hours of day and 
night. 

He brought Mrs. Hamley through this attack ; and for a day or 
two the squire's alarm and gratitude made him docile in Mr. Gibson's 
hands. Then he returned to the idea of its being a crisis through 
which his wife had passed ; and that she was now on the way to 
recovery. But the day after the consultation with Dr. Nicholls, 
Mr. Gibson said to Molly, — 

" Molly ! I've written to Osborne and Roger. Do you know 
Osborne's address ? " 



TROUBLE AT IIAMLEY HALL. 197 

" No, papa. He's iu disgrace. I dou't know if the squire 
knows ; and she has been too ill to write." 

'* Never mind. I'll enclose it to Roger ; whatever those lads 
may be to others, there's a strong brotherly love as ever I saw, 
between the two. Koger will know. And, Molly, they are sure to 
come home as soon as they hear my report of their mother's state. 
I wish you'd tell the squire what I've done. It's not a pleasant 
piece of work ; and I'll tell madam myself iu my own way. I'd have 
told him if he'd been at home ; but you say he was obliged to go to 
Ashcombe on business." 

" Quite obliged. He was so sorry to miss you. But, papa, he 
will be so angry ! You don't know how mad he is against Osborne." 

Molly dreaded the squire's anger when she gave him her father's 
message. She had seen quite enough of the domestic relations of 
the Hamley family to understand that, underneath his old-fashioned 
courtesy, and the pleasant hospitality he showed to her as a guest, 
there was a strong will, and a vehement passionate temper, along 
with that degree of obstinacy in prejudices (or " opinions," as he 
would have called them) so common to those who have, neither in 
youth nor in manhood, mixed largely with their kind. She had 
listened, day after day, to Mrs. Hamley's plaintive murmurs as to the 
deep disgrace in which Osborne was being held by his father — the 
prohibition of his coming home ; and she hardly knew how to begin 
to tell him that the letter summoning Osborne had already been 
sent oti'. 

Their dinners were tete-a-tete. The squire tried to make them 
pleasant to Molly, feeling deeply grateful to her for the soothing 
comfort she was to his wife. He made merry speeches, which sank 
away into silence, and at which they each forgot to smile. He 
ordered up rare wines, which she did not care for, but tasted oul of 
complaisance. He noticed that one day she had eaten some brown 
beurre pears as if she liked them ; and as his trees had not produced 
many this year, he gave directions that this particular kind should 
be sought for through the neighbourhood. Molly felt that, in many 
ways, he was full of good-will towards her ; but it did not diminish 
her dread of touching on the one sore point in the family. However, 
it had to be done, and that without delay. 

The great log was placed on the after-dinner fire, the hearth 
swept up, the ponderous candles snuffed, and then the door was shut, 
and Molly and the squire were left to their desseii. She sat at the 



198 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

side of the table iu her okl place. That at the head was vacant ; 
yet as no orders had been given to the contrary, the plate and glasses 
and napkin were always arranged as regularly and methodically as if 
Mrs. Hamley would come in as usual. Indeed, sometimes, when 
the door by which she used to enter was opened by any chance, 
Molly caught herself looking round as if she expected to see the tall, 
languid figure in the elegant draperies of rich silk and soft lace, 
which Mrs. Hamley was wont to wear of an evening. 

This evening, it struck her, as a new thought of pain, that into 
that room she would come no more. She had fixed to give her 
father's message at this very point of time ; but something in her 
throat choked her, and she hardly knew how to govern her voice. 
The squire got up and went to the broad fireplace, to strike into the 
middle of the great log, and split it up into blazing, sparkling pieces. 
His back was towards her. Molly began, " When papa was here 
to-day, he bade me tell you he had v/ritten to Mr. Roger Hamley to 
say that — that he thought he had better come home ; and he enclosed 
a letter to Mr. Osborne Hamley to say the same thing." 

The squire put down the poker, but he still kept his back to 
Molly. 

" He sent for Osborne and Roger ?" he asked, at length. 

Molly answered, "Yes." 

Then there was a dead silence, which Molly thought would never 
end. The squire had placed his two hands on the high chimney- 
piece, and stood leaning over the fire. 

" Roger would have been down from Cambridge on the 18th," 
said he. " And he has sent for Osborne, too ! Did he know," — he 
continued, turning round to Molly, with something of the fierceness 
she had anticipated in voice and look. In another moment he had 
dropped his voice. " It is right, quite right. I understand. It 
has come at length. Come ! come ! Osborne has brought it on, 
though," with a fresh access of anger in his tones. " She might 
have" (some word Molly could not hear — she thought it sounded 
like " lingered ") " but for that. I cannot forgive him ; I cannot." 

And then he suddenly left the room. While Molly sat there 
still, veiy sad in her sympathy with all, he put his head in again. — 

" Go to her, my dear; I cannot — not just yet. But I will soon. 
Just this bit ; and after that I won't lose a moment. You are a 
good girl. God bless you ! " 

It is not to be supposed that Molly had remained all this time at 



TROUBLE AT HAilLEY HALL. 199 

tlic Hall -without interruption. Once or twice her father had brought 
her a summons home. Molly thought she could perceive that he had 
brought it unwillingly ; in fact, it was Mrs. Gibson that had sent for 
her, almost, as it were, to preserve a "right of v/ay" through her 
actions. 

" You shall come back to-morrow, or the next day," her father 
had said. " But mamma seems to think people will put a bad con- 
struction on your being so much away from home so soon after our 
marriage." 

"Oh, papa, I'm afraid Mrs. Hamley will miss me! I do so 
hke being with her." 

"I don't think it is likely she will miss you as much as she 
would have done a month or two ago. She sleeps so much now, 
that she is scarcely conscious of the lapse of time. I'll see that you 
come back here again in a day or two." 

So out of the silence and the soft melancholy of the Hall Molly 
returned into the all-pervading element of chatter and gossip at Hol- 
lingford. Mrs. Gibson received her kindly enough. Once she had a 
smart new winter bonnet ready to give her as a present ; but she did 
not care to hear any particulars about the friends whom Molly had 
just left ; and her few remarks on the state of afiairs at the Hall 
jarred terribly on the sensitive Molly. 

" What a time she lingers ! Your papa never expected sho 
would last half so long after that attack. It must be very wearing 
work to them all ; I declare you look quite another creature since 
you were there. One can only wish it mayn't last, for their sakes." 

"You don't know how the squire values every minute," said 
Molly. 

" Why, you say she sleeps a great deal, and doesn't talk much 
when she's awake, and there's not the slightest hope for her. ^nd 
yet, at such times, people are kept on the tenter- hooks with watching 
and waiting. I kuov/ it by my dear Kirkpatrick. There really 
were days when I thought it never would end. But we won't talk 
any more of such dismal things ; you've had quite enough of them, 
I'm sure, and it always makes me melancholy to hear of illness and 
death ; and yet your papa seems sometimes as if he could talk of 
nothing else. I'm going to take you out to-night, though, and that 
will give you something of a change ; and I've been getting Miss 
Eose to trim up one of my old gowns for you ; it's too tight for me. 
There's some talk of dancing, — it's at Mrs. Edward's." 



200 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Ob, mamma, I cannot go ! " cried Molly. " I've been so mucb 
"witb ber ; and sbe may be suffering so, or even dying — and I to ba 
dancing !" 

"Nonsense! You're no relation, so you need not feel it so 
mucb. I wouldn't urge you, if sbe was likely to know about it and 
be burt ; but as it is, it's all fixed tbat you are to go ; and don't let 
us bave any nonsense about it. We migbt sit twirling our tbumbs, 
and repeating bymns all our lives long, if we were to do notbing else 
Avben people were dying." 

" I cannot go," repeated Molly. And, acting upon impulse, 
and almost to ber own surprise, sbe appealed to ber fatber, wbo came 
into tbe room at tbis veiy time. He contracted bis dark eyebrows, 
and looked annoyed as botb wife and daugliter poured tbeir different 
sides of tbe argument into bis ears. He sat down in desperation of 
patience. Wben bis turn came to pronounce a decision, be said, — 

" I suppose I can bave some luncb ? I went away at six tbis 
morning, and tbere's notbing in tbe dining-room. I bave to go off 
again directly." 

Molly started to tbe door ; Mrs. Gibson made baste to ring tbe 
bell. 

" Wbere are you going, Molly ?" said sbe, sbarply. 

" Only to see about papa's luncb." 

" Tbere are servants to do it ; and I don't like your going into 
tbe kitcben." 

" Come, Molly ! sit down and be quiet," said ber fatber. " One 
comes bome wanting peace and quietness— and food too. If I am to 
be appealed to, wbicb I beg I may not be anotber time, I settle tbat 
Molly stops at bome tbis evening. I sball come back late and tired. 
See tbat I bave sometbing ready to cat, goosey, and tben I'll dress 
myself up in my best, and go and fetcb you bome, my dear. I wish 
all these wedding festivities were well over. Ready, is it '? Then I'll 
go into tbe dining-room and gorge myself. A doctor ought to be 
able to eat like a camel, or like Major Dugald Dalgetty." 

It was well for Molly that callers came in just at tbis time, for 
Mrs. Gibson was extremely annoyed. They told her some little 
local piece of news, however, which filled up ber mind ; and Molly 
fouud tbat, if she only expressed wonder enough at the engagement 
they bad botb beard of from the departed callers, tbe previous dis- 
cussion as to ber accompanying her stepmother or not might bo- 
cnthely passed over. Not entirely though ; for the next morning she 



TROUBLE AT HAMLEY HALL. 201 

had to listen to a very brilliantly touched up account of the dance 
and the gaiety which she had missed ; and also to be told that Mrs. 
Gibson had changed her mind about giving her the gown, and 
thought now that she should reserve it for Cynthia, if only it was 
long enough ; but Cynthia was so tall — quite overgrown, in fact. 
The chances seemed equally balanced as to whether Molly might not 
have the gown after all. 



( 202 ) 



CHAPTER XYIII. 

MR. OSBORNE'S SECRET. 

Osborne aucl Roger came to the Hall ; Molly found Roger established 
there when she returned after this absence at home. She gathered 
that Osborne was coming ; but very little was said about him in any 
way. The squire scarcely ever left his wife's room now ; he sat by 
her, watching her, and now and then moaning to himself. She was 
so much under the influence of opiates that she did not often rouse 
up ; but when she did, she almost invariably asked for Molly. In 
their rare tcte-a-tetes, she would ask after Osborne — where he was, 
if he had been told, and if he was coming ? In her weakened and 
confused state of intellect she seemed to have retained two strong 
impressions — one, of the sympathy Avith which Molly had received 
her confidence about Osborne ; the other, of the anger which her 
husband entertained against him. Before the squire she never 
mentioned Osborne's name ; nor did she seem at her ease in speaking 
about him to Roger, while, when she was alone vdth Molly, she 
hardly spoke of any one else. She must have had some sort of 
wandering idea that Roger blamed his brother, while she remembered 
Molly's eager defence, which she had thought hopelessly improbable 
at the time. At any rate she made Molly her confidant about her 
first-born. She sent her to ask Roger how soon he would come, for 
the seemed to know perfectly well that he Vi'as coming. 

" Tell me all Roger says. He will tell you." 

But it was several days before Molly could ask Roger any 
questions ; and meanwhile Mrs. Hamlcy's state had materially 
altered. At length Molly came upon Roger sitting in the library, 
his head buried in his hands. He did not hear her footstep till she 
was close beside him. Then he lifted up his face, red, and stained 
with tears, his hair all rufilcd up and in disorder. 



MR. OSBORNE'S SECRET. 203 

"I've been wanting to see you alone," she began. "Your 
mother does so want some news of your brother Osborne. She told 
me last week to ask you about him, but I did not like to speak of 
him before your father." 

" She hardly ever named him to me." 

"I don't know why; for to me she used to talk of him per- 
petually. I have seen so little of her this week, and I think she 
forgets a great deal now. Still, if you don't mind, I should like to 
be able to tell her something if she asks me again." 

He put his head again between liis hands, and did not answer 
her for some time. 

" "WTiat does she want to know ?" said he, at last. " Does she 
know that Osborne is coming soon — any day ? " 

" Yes. But she wants to know where he is." 

" I can't tell you. I don't exactly know. I believe he's abroad, 
but I'm not sure." 

" But you've sent papa's letter to him ? " 

" I've sent it to a friend of his who will know better than I do 
where he's to be found. You must knovr that he isn't free from 
creditors, Molly. You can't have been one of the family, like a child 
of the house almost, without knomng that much. For that and for 
other reasons I don't exactly know where he is." 

" I will tell her so. You are sure he will come ?" 

*' Quite sure. But, Molly, I think my mother may live some 
time yet ; don't you ? Dr. Nicholls said so yesterday when he was 
here with your father. He said she had rallied more than he had 
ever expected. You're not afi-aid of any change that makes you so 
anxious for Osborne's coming ?" 

" Xo. It's only for her that I asked. She did seem so to crave 
for news of him. I think she dreamed of him ; and then when^she 
wakened it was a relief to her to talk about him to me. She always 
seemed to associate me with him. We used to speak so much of 
him when we were together.'' 

" I don't know what we should any of us have done without you. 
You've been like a daughter to my mother." 

" I do so love her," said Molly, softly. 

" Yes ; I see. Have you ever noticed that she sometimes 
calls you ' Fanny ? ' It was the name of a little sister of ours 
who died. I think she often takes you for her. It was partly 
that, and partly that at such a time as this one can't stand on 



204 WIVES AND DAUGHTEllS. 

formalities, that made me call you Molly. I hope you don't mind 
it?" 

"No; I like it. But will you tell me something more about 
your brother ? She really hungers for news of him." 

" She'd better ask me herself. Yet, no ! I am so involved by 
promises of secrecy, Molly, that I couldn't satisfy her if she once 
began to question me. I believe he's in Belgium, and that he went 
there about a fortnight ago, partly to avoid his creditors. You know 
my father has refused to pay his debts ? " 

" Yes : at least, I knew something like it." 

" I don't believe my father could raise the money all at once 
without having recourse to steps which he would exceedingly recoil 
from. Yet for the time it places Osborne in a very awkward 
position." 

" I think what vexes your father a good deal is some mystery as 
to how the money was spent." 

•' If my mother ever says anything about that part of the affair," 
said Roger, hastily, " assure her from me that there's nothing of vice 
or wrong-doing about it. I can't say more : I'm tired. But set her 
mind at ease on that point." 

" I'm not sure if she remembers all her painful anxiety about 
this," said Molly. "■ She used to speak a great deal to me about 
him before you came, when your father seemed so angry. And now, 
whenever she sees me she wants to talk on the old subject ; but she 
doesn't remember so clearly. If she were to see him I don't believe 
she would recollect why she was uneasy about him while he was 
absent." 

" He must be here soon. I expect him every day," said Roger, 
uneasily. 

" Do you think your father will be very angry with him ?" asked 
Molly, with as much timidity as if the squire's displeasure might be 
directed against her. 

" I don't know," said Roger. " My mother's illness may 
alter him ; but he didn't easily forgive us formerly. I remember 
once — but that is nothing to the purpose. I can't help fancying 
that he has put himself under some strong restraint for my 
mother's sake, and that he won't express much. But it doesn't 
follow that he will forget it. My father is a man of few affections, 
but what he has are very strong ; he feels anything that touches^ 
him on these points deeply and permanently. That unlucky 



MR. oscoune's secret. 205 

valuing of the property ! It has given my father the idea of post- 
obits " 

" What are they ?" asked Molly. 

" Raising money to be paid on my father's death, which, of 
course, involves Calculations as to the duration of his life." 

*' How shocking ! " said she. 

"I'm as sure as I am of my own life that Osborne never did 
anything of the kind. But my father expressed his suspicions in 
language that irritated Osborne ; and he doesn't speak out, and 
won't justify himself even as much as he might ; and, much as he 
loves me, I've but little influence over him, or else he would tell my 
father all. "Well, we must leave it to time," he added, sighing. 
'i>' My mother would have brought us all right, if she'd been what 
she once was." 

He turned away, leaving Molly very sad. She knew that eveiy 
member of the family she cared for so much was in trouble, out of 
which she saw no exit ; and her small power of helping them was 
diminishing day by day as Mrs. Hamley sank more and more under 
the influence of opiates and stupefying illness. Her father had 
spoken to her only this very day of the desirableness of her returning 
home for good. Mrs. Gibson wanted her — for no particular reason, 
but for many small fragments of reasons. Mrs. Hamley had ceased 
to want her much, only occasionally appearing to remember her 
existence. Her position (her father thought — the idea had not 
entered her head) in a family of which the only woman was au 
invalid confined to bed, was becoming awkward. But Molly had 
begged hard to remain two or three days longer — only that — only 
till Friday. If Mrs. Hamley should want her (she argued, with 
tears in her eyes), and should hear that she had left the house, she 
would think her so unkind, so ungrateful ! 

" My dear child, she's getting past wanting any one ! The 
keenness of earthly feelings is deadened." 

" Papa, that is worst of all. I cannot bear it. I won't believe it. 
She may not ask for me again, and may quite forget me ; but I'm 
sure, to the very last, if the medicines don't stupefy her, she will 
look round for the squire and her children. For poor Osborne most 
of all ; because he's in sorrow." 

Mr. Gibson shook his head, but said nothing in reply. In a 
minute or two he asked, — 

" I don't like to take you away while you even fancy you can be 



206 VrJVES AND DAL'GIITERS. 

of use or comfort to one y;1io lias been so kin J to you ; but, if she 
hasn't wanted you before Friday, will you be convinccil, vdll you 
come home willingly ?" 

^' If I go then, I may see her once again, even if she hasn't asked 
for me ?" inquired Molly. 

" Yes, of course. You must make no noise, no step ; hut j'ou 
may go in and see her. I must tell you, I'm almost certain she 
won't ask for you." 

" But she may, papa. I will go home on Friday, if she does 
not. I think she will." 

So Molly hung about the house, trying to do all she could out of 
the sick-room, for the comfort of those in it. They only came out 
for meals, or for necessary business, and found little time for talking 
to her, so her life was solitary enough, waiting for the call that never 
came. The evening of the day on which she had had the above 
conversation with Koger, Osborne arrived. He came straight into 
the drawing-room, where Molly was seated on the rug, reading by 
firelight, as she did not like to ring for candles merel}^ for her own 
use. Osborne came in, with a kind of hurry, v/hich almost made 
him, appear as if he would trip himself up, and iiill down. Molly 
rose. He had not noticed her before ; now he came forwards, and 
took hold of both her hands, leading her into the full flickering light, 
and straining his eyes to look into her face. 

"How is she? You will tell me — you must know the 
truth ! I've travelled day and night since I got your father's 
letter." 

Before she could frame her ansvrer, he had sate down in the 
nearest chair, covering his eyes with his hand. 

" She's very ill," said Molly. " That you know ; but I don't 
think she suffers much pain. She has wanted you sadly." 

He groaned aloud. " My father forbade me to come." 

"I know!" said Molly, anxious to prevent his self-reproach. 
" Your brother was away, too. I think no one knew how ill she was 
— she had been an invalid for so long," 

"You know _Yes ! she told you a great deal — she was very 

fond of you. And God knows how I loved her. If I had not been 
ibrbidden to come home, I should have told her all. Does my father 
]:uow of my coming now ? " 

" Yes," said Molly ; " I told him papa had sent for you." 

Just at that moment the squire came in. He had not heard of 



MR. osbohne's secret. 207 

Osborne's an-ival, and was scelciug Molly to ask Lcr to write a letter 
for hiui. 

Osborne did not stand up when bis father entered. He was too 
much exhausted, too much oppressed by his feelings, and also too 
much estranged by bis father's angry, suspicious letters. If he 
had come forward with "any manifestation of feeling at this moment, 
everything might have been different. But he waited for his father 
to SCO him before he uttered a word. All that the squire said when 
his eye fell upon him at last was, — 

"■ You here, sir ! " 

And, breaking off in the directions he was giving to Molly, he 
abruptly left the room. All the time his heart Avas yearning after his 
lirst-born ; but mutual pride kept them asunder. Yet he v/eut 
straight to the butler, and asked of him when Mr. Osborne had 
arrived, and how he had come, and if he had had any refreshment — 
dinner or what — since his arrival ? 

" For I think I forget everything now ! " said the poor squire, 
putting his hand up to his head. "For the life of me, I can't 
remember whether we've had dinner or not ; these long nights, and 
all this sorrow and watching, quite bewilder me." 

" Perhaps, sir, you will take some dinner with Mr. Osborne. 
Mrs. Morgan is sending up his dii-ectly. You hardly sate down at 
dinner-time, sir, you thought my mistress wanted something." 

" Ay ! I remember now. No ! I won't have any more. Give 
Mr. Osborne what wine he chooses. Perhaps he can eat and drink." 
So the squire went away upstairs with bitterness as well as sorrow in 
his heart. 

When lights were brought, Molly was struck with the change in 
Osborne. He looked haggard and worn ; perhaps with travelling 
and anxiety. Not quite such a dainty gentleman either, as Molly 
had thought him, when she had last seen him calling on her step- 
mother, tvro months before. But she liked him better now. The 
tone of his remarks pleased her more. He was simpler, and less 
ashamed of showing his feelings. He asked after Roger in a warm, 
longiug kind of way. Eoger was out : he had ridden to Ashcombe 
to transact some business for the squire. Osborne evidently wished 
for his return ; and hung about restlessly in the drawing-room after 
he had dined. 

" You are sure I may not see her to-night ? " he asked Molly, for 
the third or fourth time. 



208 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

"No, indeed. I will go up again if you like it. But Mrs. 
Jones, the nurse Dr. Nicliolls sent, is a very decided person. I went 
up while you were at dinner, and Mrs. Hamley had just taken her 
drops, and was on no account to be disturbed by seeing any one, 
much less by any excitement." 

Osborne kept walking up and down the long drawing-room, half 
talking to himself, half to Molly. 

" I wish Roger would come. He seems to be the only one to give 
me a welcome. Does my father always live iipstairs in my mother's 
rooms. Miss Gibson?" 

"He has done since her last attack. I believe he reproaches 
himself for not having been enough alarmed before." 

" You heard all the words he said to me ; they were not much of 
a welcome, were they ? And my dear mother, who always — whether 

I was to blame or not 1 suppose Eoger is sure to come home 

to-night ? " 

" Quite sure." 

" You are staying here, are you not ? Do you often see my 
mother, or does this omnipotent nurse keep you out too ? " 

" Mrs. Hamley hasn't asked for me for three days now, and I 
don't go into her room unless she asks. I'm leaving on Friday, 
I believe." 

" My mother was very fond of you, I know." 
After a while he said, in a voice that had a great deal of sensitive 
pain in its tone, — 

" I suppose — do you know whether she is quite conscious — quite 
herself?" 

" Not always conscious," said Molly, tenderly. " She has to 
take so many opiates. But she never wanders, only forgets, and 
sleeps." 

" Oh, mother, mother ! " said he, stopping suddenly, and hanging 
over the fire, his hands on the chimney-piece. 

When Roger came home, Molly thought it time to retire. Poor 
girl ! it was getting time for her to leave this scene of distress in 
which she could be of no use. She sobbed herself to sleep this 
Tuesday night. Two days more, and it would be Friday ; and she 
would have to wrench up the roots she had shot down into this 
ground. The weather was bright the next morning ; and morning 
and sunny weather cheer up young hearts. Molly sate in the dining- 
room making tea for the gentlemen as they came down. She could 



MR. OSBORNE'S SECRET. 209 

not help hoping that the squire and Osborne might come to a better 
understanding before she left ; for after all, in the dissension between 
father and son, lay a bitterer sting than in the illness sent by God. 
But though they met at the brealifast-table, they purposely avoided 
addressing each other. Perhaps the natural subject of conversation 
between the two, at such a time, would have been Osborne's long 
journey the night before ; but he had never spoken of the place he 
had come from, whether north, south, east, or west, and the squire 
did not choose to allude to anything that might bring out what his 
sou wished to conceal. Again, there was an unexpressed idea in 
both their minds that Mrs. Hamley's present illness was much 
aggravated, if not entirely brought on, by the discovery of Osborne's 
debts ; so, many inquiries and answers on that head were tabooed. 
In fact, their attempts at easy conversation were limited to local 
subjects, and principally addressed to Molly or Roger. Such inter- 
course was not productive of pleasure, or even of friendly feeling, 
though there was a thin outward surface of politeness and peace. 
Long before the day was over, Molly wished that she had acceded to 
her father's proposal, and gone home with him. No one seemed to 
want her. Mrs. Jones, the nurse, assured her time after time that 
Mrs. Hamley had never named her name ; and her small services in 
the sick-room were not required since there was a regular nurse, 
Osborne and Roger seemed all in all to each other ; and Molly now 
felt how much the short conversations she had had with Roger had 
served to give her something to think about, all during the remainder 
of her solitary days. Osborne was extremely polite, and even ex- 
pressed his gratitude to her for her attentions to his mother in a very 
pleasant manner ; but he appeared to be unwilling to show her any 
of the deeper feelings of his heart, and almost ashamed of hia 
exhibition of emotion the night before. He spoke to her as any 
agreeable young man speaks to any pleasant young lady ; but Molly 
almost resented this. It was only the squire who seemed to make 
her of any account. lie gave her letters to write, small bills to 
reckon up ; and she could have kissed his hands for thankfulness. 

The last afternoon of her stay at the Hall came. Roger had 
gone out on the squire's business. Molly went into the garden, 
thinking over the last summer, when Mrs, Hamley's sofa used to bo 
placed under the old cedar-tree on the lawn, and when the warm air 
seemed to be scented with roses and sweetbriar. Now, the trees 
leafless, — there was no sweet odour in the keen frosty air ; and 
Vol. I. 14 



210 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

looking up at the house, there were the vrhite sheets of blinds, 
shutting out the pale winter sky from the invalid's room. Then she 
thought of the day her father had Lrought her the news of his second 
marriage : the thicket was tangled with dead weeds and rime and 
hoar-frost ; and the beautiful fine articulations of branches and 
boughs and delicate twigs were all intertwined in leafless distinctness 
against the sl^y. Could she ever be so passionately unhappy again ? 
Was it goodness, or was it numbness, that made her feel as though, 
life was too short to be troubled much about anything ? Death 
seemed the only reality. She had neither energy nor heart to walk 
far or briskly ; and turned back towards the house. The afternoon 
sun was shining brightly on the windows ; and, stirred up to unusual 
activity by some unkno-n-n cause, the housemaids had opened the 
shutters and v/indows of the generally unused library. The middle 
Vv-iudow v^-as also a door ; the white-painted wood went halfway up. 
Molly turned along the little flag-paved path that led past the library 
windows to the gate in the white railings at the front of the house, 
and went in at the opened door. She had had leave given to choose 
out any books she wished to read, and to take them home with her ; 
and it v/as just the sort of half-dawdling employment suited to her 
taste this afternoon. She mounted on the ladder to get to a par- 
ticular shelf high up in a dark corner of the room ; and finding there 
some volume that looked interesting, she sat down on the step to read 
part of it. There she sat, in her bonnet and cloak, when Osborne 
suddenly came in. He did not see her at first ; indeed, he seemed 
in such a huriy that he probably might not have noticed her at all, 
if she had not spoken. 

" Am I in j-our way ? I only came here for a minute to look for 
some books." She came down the steps as she spoke, still holding 
the book in her hand. 

" Not at all. It is I who am disturbing you. I must just write 
a letter for the post, and then I shall be gone. Is not this open door 
too cold for 3'ou '? " 

" Oh, no. It is so fresh and pleasant." 

She began to read again, sitting on the lowest step of the ladder ; 
he to write at the largo old-fashioned writing-table close to the 
window. There was a minute or two of profound silence, in which 
the rapid scratching of Osborne's pen upon the paper was the only 
sound. Then came a click of the gate, and Roger stood at the open 
door. His face was towards Osborne, sitting in the light ; his back 



Mil. oseorne's secret. 211 

to Molly, crouched up in her corner. He held out a letter, and said 
iu hoarse breathlcssness — 

*' Here's a letter from your wife, Osborne. I went past the post- 
office and thought ' ' 

Osborne stood up, angry dismay upon his face. 

" Roger ! what have you done ! Don't you see her ? " 

Roger looked round, and Molly stood up in her corner, red, 
trembling, miserable, as though she were a guilty person. Roger 
entered the room. All throe seemed to be equally dismayed. M0II3' 
was the first to speak ; she came forward and said — 

*' I am so sorry ! You didn't wish to hear it, but I couldn't help 
it. You will trust me, won't you ? " and turning to Roger she said 
to him with tears in her eyes — " Please say you know I shall not 
tell." 

" We can't help it," said Osborne, gloomily. " Only Roger, who 
knew of what importance it was, ought to have looked round him. 
before speaking." 

" So I should," said Roger. " I'm more vexed with myself than 
you can conceive. Not but what I'm as sure of you as of myself," 
continued he, turning to Molly. 

"Yes; but," said Osborne, "you see how many chances there 
are that even the best-meaning persons may let out what it is of such 
consequence to me to keep secret." 

" I know you think it so," said Roger. 

" Well, don't let us begin that old discussion again — at any rate, 
before a third person." 

Molly had had hard work all this time to keep from crying. Now 
that she was alluded to as the third person before whom conversation 
was to be restrained, she said — 

" I'm going away. Perhaps I ought not to have been he^-e. 
I'm very sorry— very. But I will try and forget what I've 
heard." 

" You can't do that," said Osborne, still ungraciously. " But 
will you promise me never to speak about it to any one — not even to 
me, or to Roger ? Will you try to act and speak as if you had 
never heard it ? I'm sure, from what Roger has told me about you, 
that if you give me this promise I may rely upon it." 

" Yes ; I will promise," said Molly, putting out her hand as a 
kind of pledge. Osborne took it, but rather as if the action was 
superfluous. She added, "I think I should have done so, even 

14—2 



212 WIVES AXD DAUGHTEES. 

■U'itliout a promise. But it is, perhaps, better to bind oneself. I mil 
go a-n-ay now. I wish I'd never come into this room." 

She put down her book on the table very softly, and turned to 
leave the room, choking down her tears until she was in the solitude 
of her own chamber. But Koger was at the door before her, holding 
it open for her, and reading — she felt that he was reading — her face. 
He held out his hand for hers, and his firm grasp expressed both 
S3Tiipathy and regret for what had occurred. 

She could hardly keep back her sobs till she reached her bed- 
room. Her feelings had been overwrought for some time past, 
without finding the natural vent in action. The leaving Hamley 
Hall had seemed so sad before ; and now she was troubled with 
having to bear away a secret which she ought never to have known, 
and the knowledge of which had brought out a very uncomfortable 
responsibility. Then there would arise a very natural wonder as to 
who Osborne's wife was. Molly had not stayed so long and so 
intimately in the Hamley family without being well aware of the 
manner in which the future lady of Hamley was planned for. The 
squire, for instance, partly in order to show that Osborne, his heir, 
was above the reach of Molly Gibson, the doctor's daughter, in the 
early days before he knew Molly well, had often alluded to the grand, 
the high, and the wealthy marriage which Hamley of Hamley, as 
represented by his clever, brilHant, handsome son Osborne, might be 
expected to make. Mrs. Hamley, too, unconsciously on her part, 
showed the projects that she was constantly devising for the reception 
of the unknown daughter-in-law that was to be. 

" The drawing-room must be refurnished when Osborne marries" 
— or " Osborne's wife will like to have the west suite of rooms to 
herself ; it will perhaps be a trial to her to live with the old couple ; 
but we must arrange it so that she will feel it as little as possible." — 
"•Of course, when Mrs. Osborne comes we must try and give her a 
new carriage ; the old one does well enough for us." — These, and 
similar speeches had given Molly the impression of the future Mrs. 
Osborne as of some beautiful grand young lady, whose veiy presence 
would make the old Hall into a stately, formal mansion, instead of the 
pleasant, unceremonious home that it was at present. Osborne, too, 
who had spoken with such languid criticism to Mrs. Gibson about 
various country belles, and even in his own home was apt to give 
himself airs — only at home his airs were poetically fastidious, while 
■with Mrs. Gibson they had been socially fastidious — what uuspeak- 



MR. OSBORNE'S SECRET. 213 

ably elegant beauty had he chosen for his wife ? Who had satisfied 
him ; and yet satisfying him, had to have her marriage kept in con- 
cealment from his parents ? At length Molly tore herself up from 
her wonderings. It was of no use : she could not find out ; she 
might not even try. The blank wall of her promise blocked up the 
way. Perhaps it was not even right to wonder, and endeavour to 
remember slight speeches, casual mentions of a name, so as to piece 
them together into something coherent. Molly dreaded seeing either 
of the brothers again ; but they all met at dinner-time as if nothing 
had happened. The squire was taciturn, either from melancholy or 
displeasure. He had never spoken to Osborne since his return, 
excepting about the commonest trifles, when intercourse could not be 
avoided ; and his wife's state oppressed him like a heavy cloud 
coming over the light of his day. Osborne put on an indifferent 
manner to his father, which Molly felt sure was assumed ; but it was 
not conciliatory for all that. Roger, quiet, steady, and natural, 
talked more than all the others ; but he too was uneasy, and in 
distress on many accounts. To-day he principally addressed himself 
to Molly ; entering into rather long narrations of late discoveries in 
natural history, which kept up the current of talk without requiring 
much reply from any one. Molly had expected Osborne to look 
something different from usual — conscious, or ashamed, or resentful, 
or even " married " — but he was exactly the Osborne of the morning 
— handsome, elegant, languid in manner and in look ; cordial with 
his brother, polite towards her, secretly uneasy at the state of things 
between his father and himself. She would never have guessed the 
concealed romance which lay jjenht under that every-day behaviour. 
She had always wished to come into direct contact with a love-story : 
here she had, and she only found it very uncomfortable ; there was a 
sense of concealment and uncertainty about it all ; and her houtest 
straightforward father, her quiet life at Hollingford, which, even with 
all its drawbacks, was above-board, and where everybody knew what 
, everybody was doing, seemed secure and pleasant in comparison. 
Of course she felt great pain at quitting the Hall, and at the mute 
farewell she had taken of her sleeping and unconscious friend. But 
leaving Mrs. Hamley now was a different thing to what it had been 
a fortnight ago. Then she was wanted at any moment, and felt 
herself to be of comfort. Now her very existence seemed forgotten 
by the poor lady whose body appeared to be living so long after 
her soul. 



214 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

She was sent home in the carriage, loaded with true thanks from 
every one of the family. Oshorue ransacked the houses for flowers 
for her ; Roger had chosen her out Looks of every kind. The squire 
himself kept shaking her hand, without being able to speak his 
gratitude, till at last he took her in his arms, and kissed her as he 
would have done a daughter. 



( 215 ) 



CHAPTER XIX. 

CYNTHIA'S ARRIVAL. 

Molly's father v.-as not at liome -wlien slie returned ; and tlierc was 
no one to give her a vrelcome. Mrs. Gibson was out paying calls, 
the servants told Molly. She went upstairs to her own room, 
meaning to unpack and arrange her borrowed books. Rather to her 
surprise she saw the chamber, corresponding to her own, being 
dusted ; water and towels too were being carried in. 

" Is any one coming ? " she asked of the housemaid. 

" Missus's daughter from France. Miss lurkpatrick is coming 
to-morrov,-." 

Was Cynthia coming at last ? Oh, what a pleasure it would be 
to have a [^companion, a girl, a sister of her own age ! Molly's 
depressed spirits sprang up again with bright elasticity. She longed 
for Mrs. Gibson's return, to ask her all about it : it must be very 
sudden, for Mr. Gibson had said nothing of it at the Hall the day 
before. No quiet reading now ; the books were hardly put away 
with Molly's usual neatness. She went down into the drawing-room, 
and could not settle to anything. At last Mx'S. Gibson came home, 
tired out with her walk and her heavy velvet cloak. Until that ^'as 
taken off, and she had rested herself for a few minutes, she seemed 
quite unable to attend to Molly's questions. 

" Oh, yes ! Cynthia is coming home to-morrow, by the ' Umpire,' 
Avhich passes through at ten o'clock. AVhat an oppressive day it is 
for the time of the year ! I really am almost ready to faint. CjTithia 
heard of some opportunity, I believe, and was only too glad to leave 
school a fortnight earlier than we planned. She never gave me the 
chance of writing to say I did, or did not, like her coming so much 
before the time ; and I shall have to pay for her just the same as if 
she had stopped. And I meant to have asked her to bring me a 



216 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Freucli bonnet ; and then you coukl have liad one made after mine. 
But I'm very glad she's coming, poor dear." 

" Is anything the matter with her ? " asked Molly. 
" Oh, no ! Why should there be ? " 

" You called her ' poor dear,' and it made me afraid lest she 
might be ill." 

" Oh, no ! It's only a way I got into, when Mr. Kirkpatrick 
died. A fatherless girl — you know one always does call them * poor 
dears.' Oh, no ! Cynthia never is ill. She's as strong as a horse. 
She never would have felt to-day as I have done. Could you get me 
a glass of wine and a biscuit, my dear ? I'm really quite faint." 

Mr. Gibson was much more excited about Cynthia's arrival than 
her own mother was. He anticipated her coming as a great pleasure 
to Molly, on whom, in spite of his recent marriage and his new wife, 
his interests principally centred. He even found time to run upstairs 
and see the bedrooms of the two girls ; for the furniture of which 
he had paid a pretty round sum. 

" Well, I suppose young ladies like their bedrooms decked out in 

this way ! It's very pretty certainly, but " 

" I liked my own old room better, papa ; but perhaps Cynthia is 
accustomed to such decking up." 

" Perhaps ; at any rate, she'll see we've tried to make it pretty. 
Yours is like hers. That's right. It might have hurt her, if hers 
had been smarter than yours. Now, good-night in your fine flimsy 
bed." 

Molly was up betimes — almost before it was light — arranging 
her pretty Hamley flowers in Cynthia's room. She could hardly eat 
her breakfast that morning. She ran upstairs and put on her things, 
thinking that Mrs. Gibson was quite sure to go down to the " Angel 
Inn," where the " Umpire" stopped, to meet her daughter after a 
two years' absence. But, to her surprise, Mrs. Gibson had arranged 
herself at her great worsted-work frame, just as usual ; and she, in 
her turn, was astonished at Molly's bonnet and cloak. 

"Where are you going so early, child ? The fog hasn't cleared 
away j'et." 

" I thought you would go and meet Cynthia ; and I wanted to go 
with you." 

" She will be here in half an hour ; and dear papa has told the 
gardener to take the wheelbarrow down for her luggage. I'm not 
sure if he is not gone himself." 



CY^'THIA'S ARRIVAL. 217 

" Tlicu are uot you goiug? " asked Molly, with a good deal of 
disappoiutmeut. 

" No, certainly uot. She will be here almost directly. And, 
besides, I don't like to expose my feelings to every passer-by in High 
.Street. You forget I have not seen her for two years, and I hate 
scenes iu the market-place." 

She settled herself to her work again ; and Molly, after some 
consideration, gave up her own grief, and employed herself in 
looking out of the downstairs window which commanded the approach 
from the town. 

" Here she is — here she is ! " she cried out at last. Her fother 
was walking by the side of a tall young lady ; William the gardener 
was wheeling along a great cargo of baggage. Molly flew to the 
front-door, and had it wide open to admit the new-comer some time 
before she arrived. 

" Well ! here she is. Molly, this is CjTithia. Cynthia, Molly. 
You're to be sisters, you kuow. 

Molly saw the beautiful, tall, swaying figure, against the light of 
the open door, but could not see any of the features that were, for 
the moment, in shadow. A sudden gush of shyness had come over 
her just at the instant, and quenched the embrace she would have 
given a moment before. But Cynthia took her in her arms, and 
kissed her on both cheeks. 

"Here's mamma," she said, looking beyond Molly on to the 
stairs where Mrs. Gibson stood, wrapped up in a shawl, and shiver- 
ing in the cold. She ran past Molly and Mr, Gibson, who rather 
averted their eyes from this first greeting between mother and child. 

Mrs. Gibson said — ■ 

" Why, how you are grown, darling ! You look quite a woman." 

" And so I am," said Cynthia. " I was before I went away ; It!ve 
hardly grown since, — except, it is always to be hoped, iu wisdom." 

"Yes! That we will hope," said Mrs. Gibson, iu rather a 
meaning way. Indeed there were evidently hidden allusions in their 
seeming commonplace speeches. When they all came into the full 
light and repose of the drawing-room, Molly was absorbed in the 
contemplation of Cynthia's beauty. Perhaps her features were not 
regular ; but the changes in her expressive countenance gave one no 
time to think of that. Her smile was perfect; her pouting charm- 
ing ; the play of the face was in the mouth. Her eyes were beauti- 
fully shaped, but their expression hardly seemed to vary. In colour- 



218 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

ing slie was not unlike her motlier ; ouly slie liacl not so much of the 
red-haired tints in her complexion ; and her long-shaped, serious 
grey eyes were fringed with dark lashes, instead of her mother's 
insipid flaxen ones. Molly fell in love with her, so to speak, on the 
instant. She sate there warming her feet and hands, as much at 
her ease as if she had been there all her life ; not particularly at- 
tending to her mother — v/ho, all the time, vras studying either her 
or her dress — measuring Molly and Mr. Gibson with grave observant 
looks, as if guessing how she should like them. 

" There's hot breakfast ready for you in the diuiug-room, v/hen 
you are ready for it," said Mr. Gibson. " I'm sure you must v.-aut 
it after your night journey." He looked round at his wife, at 
Cynthia's mother, but she did not seem inclined to leave the warm 
room again. 

" Molly will take you to your room, darling," said she; " it is 
near hers, and she has got her things to take oQ*. I'll come down 
and sit in the dining-room while you are having your breakfast, but 
I really am afraid of the cold now." 

Cynthia rose and followed Molly upstairs. 

" I'm so sorry there isn't a fire for you," said Molly, " but — I 
suppose it wasn't ordered ; and, of course, I don't give any orders. 
Here is some hot water, though." 

" Stop a minute," said Cynthia, getting hold of both Molly's 
hands, and looking steadily into her face, but in such a manner that 
she did not dislike the inspection. 

" I think I shall like you. I am so glad ! I was afraid I should 
not. We're all in a very awkward position together, aren't wo ? I 
like your father's looks, though." 

Molly could not help smiling at the way this was said. Cynthia 
replied to her smile. 

" xWi, you may laugh. But I don't know that I am easy to get 
on with ; mamma and I didn't suit when we were last together. 
But perhaps v/e are each of us wiser now. Now, please leave me for 
a quarter of an hour. I don't want anything more." 

Molly went into her own room, waiting to show Cynthia down to 
the dining-room. Not that, in the moderate-sized house, there was 
any difficulty in finding the way. A very little trouble in con- 
jecturing would enable a stranger to discover any room. But Cyn- 
thia had so captivated Molly, that she wanted to devote herself to 
the new-comer's service. Ever since she had heard of the proba- 




f'iRST lLiIPSBiSIO:gS 



I 



CYNTHIA'S AllRIVAL. 219 

tility of her having a sister — (she called her a sister, hut whether it 
was a Scotch sister, or a sister a hi mode dc Bretinjuc, ^voulcl have 
puzzled most people)- — IMolly had allowed her foncy to dwell much 
on the idea of Cynthia's coming ; and in the short time since they 
had met, Cynthia's unconscious power of fascination had hcen exer- 
cised upon her. Some people have this power. Of course, its effects 
are only manifested in the susceptihle. A school-girl may be found 
in every school who attracts and influences all the others, not by her 
virtues, nor her beauty, nor her sweetness, nor her cleverness, but 
by something that can neither be described nor reasoned upon. It 
is the something alluded to in the old lines : — 

Love mc not for comely grace, 
For my pleasing eye and face; 
No, nor for my constant heart, — 
Por these may change, and tnni to ill, 
And thus true love may sever. 
But love me on, and know not why. 
So hast thou the same reason still 
To dote upon mc ever. 

A woman will have this charm, not only over men but over her own 
sex ; it cannot be defined, or rather it is so delicate a mixture of 
many gifts and qualities that it is impossible to decide on the pro- 
portions of each. Perhaps it is incompatible with very high prin- 
ciple ; as its essence seems to consist in the most exquisite povv'er of 
adaptation to varying people and still more various moods; "being 
all things to all men." At any rate, Molly might soon have been 
aware that Cynthia was not remarkable for unflinching morality ; but 
the glamour throv.'n over her would have prevented Molly from any 
attempt at penetrating into and judging her companion's character, 
even had such processes been the least in accordance with her own 
disposition. ^' 

Cynthia was very beautiful, and was so well aware of this fact 
that she had forgotten to care about it ; no one with such loveliness 
ever appeared so little conscious of it. Molly would watch her per- 
petually as she went about the room, with the free stately step of 
some wild animal of the forest — moving almost, as it were, to the 
continual sound of music. Her dress, too, though now to our ideas 
it would be considered ugly and disfiguring, was suited to her com- 
plexion and figure, and the fashion of it subdued within due bounds 
by her exquisite taste. It was inexpensive enough, and the changes 
in it were but fcv/. Mrs. Gibson professed herself shocked to find 



220 WIVES AIsD DAUGHTEES. 

that Cynthia had but four gowus, when she might have stocked her- 
self so well, and brought over so many useful French patterns, if she 
had but patiently Avaited for her mother's answer to the letter which 
she had sent, announcing her return by the opportunity madame had 
found for her. Molly was hurt for Cynthia at all these speeches ; 
she thought they implied that the pleasure which her mother felt in 
seeing her a fortnight sooner after her two years' absence was inferior 
to that which she would have received from a bundle of silver-paper 
patterns. But Cynthia took no apparent notice of the frequent 
recurrence of these small complaints. Indeed, she received much of 
what her mother said with a kind of complete inditierence, that made 
Mrs. Gibson hold her rather in awe; and she was much mor& com- 
municative to Molly than to her own child. With regard to dress, 
however, Cynthia soon showed that she was her mother's own 
daughter in the manner in which she could use her deft and nimble 
fingers. She was a capital workwoman ; and, unlike Molly, who 
excelled in plain sewing, but had no notion of dressmaking or milli- 
nery, she could repeat the fashions she had only seen in passing 
along the streets of Boulogne, with one or two pretty rapid move- 
ments of her hands, as she turned and twisted the ribbons and gauze 
her mother furnished her with. Bo she refurbished Mrs. Gibson's 
wardrobe ; doing it all in a sort of contemptuous manner, the source 
of which Molly could not quite make out. 

Day after day the course of these small frivolities was broken iu 
upon by the news Mr. Gibson brought of Mrs. Hamley's nearer 
approach to death. Molly — very often sitting by Cynthia, and sur- 
rounded by ribbon, and wire, and net — heard the bulletins like the 
toll of a funeral bell at a marriage feast. Her father sympathized 
with her. It was the loss of a dear friend to him too ; but he was 
so accustomed to death, that it seemed to him but as it was, the 
natural end of all things human. To Molly, the death of some one 
she had known so well and loved so much, was a sad and gloomy 
phenomenon. She loathed the small vanities with which she was 
surrounded, and would wander out into the frosty garden, and pace 
the walk, which was both sheltered and concealed by evergreens. 

At length — and yet it was not so long, not a fortnight since 
Molly had left the Hall — the end came. Mrs. Hamley had sunk out 
of life as gradually as she had sunk out of consciousness and her 
place in this world. The quiet waves closed over her, and her place 
knew her no more. 



CYNTHIA'S ARRIVAL. 221 

"They all scut their love to 3'ou, Molly," said licr father. 
" Roger said he knew how you would feel it." 

Mr. Gibsou had come iu very late, and was having a solitary 
dinner in the dining-room. Molly was sitting near him to keep him 
company. Cynthia and her mother were upstairs. The latter was 
trying on a head-dress which Cynthia had made for her. 

Molly remained downstairs after her father had gone out afresh 
on his final round among his town patients. The fire was growing 
very low, and the lights were waning. Cynthia came softly in, and 
taking Molly's listless hand, that hung down by her side, sat at her 
feet on the rug, chafing her chilly fingers without speaking. The 
tender action thawed the tears that had been gathering heavily at 
Molly's heart, and they came dropping down her cheeks. 
" You loved her dearly, did you not, Molly ? " 
" Yes," sobbed Molly; and then there was a silence. 
" Had you known her long ? " 

" No, not a year. But I had seen a great deaFof her. I was 
almost like a daughter to her ; she said so. Yet I never bid her 
good-by, or anything. Her mind became w^eak and confused." 
" She had only sons, I think ? " 

" No ; only Mr. Osborne and Mr. Eoger Hamley. She had a 
daughter once — ' Fanny.' Sometimes, in her illness, she used to 
call me ' Fanny.' " 

The two girls were silent for some time, both gazing into the 
fire. Cynthia spoke first : — ■ 

*' I wish I could love people as you do, Molly ! " 
" Don't you ? " said the other, in surprise. 
"No. A good number of people love me, I believe, or at least 
they think they do ; but I never seem to care much for any one. I 
do believe I love you, little Jlolly, whom I have only known for tfeu 
days, better than any one." 

" Not than your mother ? " said Molly, in grave astonishment. 
" Yes, than my mother ! " replied Cynthia, half-smiling. " It's 
very shocking, I daresay ; but it is so. Now, don't go and condemn 
me. I don't think love for one's mother quite comes by nature ; and 
remember how much I have been separated from mine ! I loved my 
father, if you will," she continued, with the force of truth in her 
tone, and then she stopped ; " but he died when I was quite a little 
thing, and no one behoves that I remember him. I heard mamma 
say to a caller, not a fortnight after his funeral, ' Oh, no, Cynthia is 



222 ^VIVES AXD DAUGHTERS. 

loo young ; slie lias quite forgotten liim '• — and I bit my lips, to keep 
from crying out, ' Papa ! papa ! have I ? ' But it's of no use. 
Well, then mamma had to go out as a governess ; she couldn't help 
it, poor thing ! but she didn't much care for parting with me. I 
•was a trouble, I daresay. So I was sent to school at four years old ; 
■ first one school, and then another ; and in the holidays, mamma 
went to stay at grand houses, and I was generally left with the 
schoolmistresses. Once I went to the Towers ; and mamma lectured 
me continually, and yet I was very naughty, I belieye. And so I 
never went again ; and I was very glad of it, for it was a horrid 
place." 

" That it was," said Molly, who remembered her own day of 
tribulation there. 

" And once I went to London, to stay v/ith my uncle Kirhpatrich. 
He is a lawyer, and getting on now; but then he was poor enough, 
and had six or seven children. It was winter-time, and we were all 
shut up in a small house in Doughty Street. But, after all, that 
wasn't so bad." 

" But then you lived with your mother when she began school at 
Ashcombe. Mr. Preston told mc that, when I stayed that day at the 
Manor-house." 

" What did he tell j'ou ? " ashed Cynthia, almost fiercely. 

" Nothing but that. Oh, yes ! Ho praised your beauty, and 
wanted me to tell you what he had said." 

" I should have hated you if you had," said Cynthia. 

" Of course I never thought of doing such a thing," replied 
Molly. *' I didn't like him; and Lady Harriet spoke of him the 
next day, as if he wasn't a person to be liked." 

Cynthia was quite silent. At length she said, — 

" I wish I was good ! " 

" So do I," said Molly, simply. She was thinking again of Mrs. 
Hamley, — 

Only the actions of the just 

Smell sweet and blossom in the dust, 

and " goodness "just then seemed to her to be the only endearing 
thing in the world. 

"Nonsense, Molly!" You are good. At least, if you're not 
good, what am I ? There's a rule-of-threc sum for you to do ! But 
it's no use talking ; I am not good, and I never shall be now. Per- 



CYNTHIA'S ARRIVAL. 223 

haps I inigiit Lc a hcroiuc still, but I shall ucvcr he ci good woman, 
I know." 

" Do you think it easier to bo a heroine ? " 

" Yes, as far as one knows of heroines from history. I'm capable 
of a great jerk, an effort, and then a relaxation — but steady, every- 
day goodness is beyond me. I must bo a moral kangaroo ! " 

Molly could not follow Cynthia's ideas ; she could not distract 
herself from the thoughts of the sorrowing group at the Hall. 

" How I should like to see them all ! and j'ct one can do nothing 
at such a time ! Papa says the funeral is to be on Tuesday, and 
that, after that, Eoger Hamley is to go back to Cambridge. It will 
seem as if nothing had happened ! I wonder how the squire and 
Mr. Osborne Hamley will get on together." 

" He's the eldest son, is he not ? T^hy shouldn't he and his 
father get on well together ? ' ' 

" Oh ! I don't knovr. That is to say, I do know, hut I think I 
ought not to tell." 

" Don't be so pedantically truthful, Molly. Besides, your manner 
shows when you speak truth and when you speak falsehood, without 
troubling yourself to use words. I knew exactly what your ' I don't 
know ' meant. I never consider myself bound to be truthful, so I 
beg v.-e may be on equal terms." 

Cynthia might well say she did not consider herself bound to be 
truthful ; she literally said what came uppermost, wdthout caring 
very much whether it was accurate or not. But there was no ill- 
nature, and, in a general way, no attempt at procuring any advantage 
for herself in all her deviations; and there was often such a latent 
sense of fan in them that Molly could not help being amused with 
them in fact, though she condemned them in theory. Cynthia's 
j)layfulness of manner glossed such failings over w-ith a kind of 
cliarm ; and yet, at times, she was so soft and sjTupathetic that 
Molly could not resist her, even when she affirmed the most startlino' 
things. The little account she made of her own beauty pleased 
Mr. Gibson extremely ; and her j)retty deference to him won his 
heart. She was restless too, till she had attacked Molly's dress, 
after she had remodelled her mother's. 

" Now for you, sweet one," said she as she began upon one of 
Molly's gowns. "I've been working as connoisseur until now. 
Now I begin as amateur." 

She brought dovm her pretty artificial flowers, plucked out of her 



224 WIVES AND DAUGHTEES. 

own best bonnet to put into Molly's, saying they would suit her com- 
plexion, and that a knot of ribbons would do well enough for her. 
All the time she worked, she sang ; she had a sweet voice in singing, 
as well as in speaking, and used to run up and down her gay French 
chansons without any difficulty ; so flexible in the art was she. Yet 
she did not seem to care for music. She rarely touched the piano on 
which Molly practised with daily conscientiousness. Cynthia was 
always willing to answer questions about her previous life, though, 
after the first, she rarely alluded to it of herself; but she was a most 
sympathetic listener to all Molly's innocent coniidences of joys and 
sorrows : sympathizing even to the extent of wondering how she 
could endure Mr, Gibson's second marriage, and why she did not 
take some active steps of rebellion. 

In spite of all this agreeable and pungent variety of companion- 
ship at home, Molly yearned after the Hamleys. If there had been 
a woman in that family she would probably have received many little 
notes, and heard numerous details which were now lost to her, or 
summed up in condensed accounts of her father's visits at the Hall, 
which, since his dear patient was dead, were only occasional. 

" Yes ! The squire is a good deal changed ; but he's better 
than he was. There's an unspoken estrangement between him and 
Osborne ; one can see it iu the silence and constraint of their 
manners ; but outwardly they are friendly — civil at any rate. The 
squire will always respect Osborne as his heir, and the future repre- 
sentative of the family. Osborne doesn't look well ; he says he 
wants change. I think he's weary of the domestic tete-a-tete, or 
domestic dissension. But he feels his mother's death acutely. It's 
a wonder that he and his father are not drawn together by their 
common loss. Roger's away at Cambridge too — examination for the 
mathematical tripos. Altogether the aspect of both people and place 
is changed ; it is but natural ! " 

Such is perhaps the summing-up of the news of the Hamleys, as 
contained in many bulletins. They always ended in some kind 
message to Molly. 

Mrs. Gibson generally said, as a comment upon her husband's 
account of Osborne's melancholy, — 

" My dear ! why don't you ask him to dinner here ? A little 
quiet dinner, you know. Cook is quite up to it ; and wo would all of 
us wear blacks and lilacs ; he couldn't consider that as gaiety." 

Mr. Gibson took no more notice of these suggestions than by 



CrXTHIA'S AnniYAL. 225 

■shaking his head. He had grown accustomed to his wife hy this 
time, and regarded silence on his own part as a great preser\-ative 
against long inconsequential arguments. But every time that Mrs. 
Gibson was struck by Cynthia's beauty, she thought it more and 
I more advisable that Mr. Osborne Hamley should be cheered up by a 
quiet little dinner-party. As yet no one but the ladies of Holling, 
ford and Mr. Ashton, the vicar — that hopeless and impracticable old 
bachelor — had seen Cynthia ; and what was the good of having a 
lovely daughter, if there wei'e none but old women to admire her ? 

Cynthia herself appeared extremely indiiierent upon the subject, 
and took very little notice of her mother's constant talk about the 
gaieties that were possible, and the gaieties that were impossible, in 
! Hollingford. She exerted hei'self just as much to chaiTu the two 
Miss Brownings as she would have done to delight Osborne Hamley, 
or any other j'oung heii*. That is to say, she used no exertion, but 
■simply followed her own nature, which was to attract every one of 
those she was thrown amongst. The exertion seemed rather to be to 
refrain firom doing so, and to protest, as she so often did, by slight 
words and expressive looks against her mother's words and humours 
■ — alike against her folly and her caresses. Molly was almost soriy 
for Mrs. Gibson, who seemed so unable to gain influence over her 
:child. One day Cynthia read Molly's thought. 

"I am not good, and I told you so. Somehow, I cannot forgive 
"Jier for her neglect of me as a child, when I would have clung to her. 
IBesides, I hardly ever heard from her when I was at school. And I 
iknow she put a stop to my coming over to her wedding. I saw the 
letter she wrote to Madame Lefebre. A child should be brought up 
with its parents, if it is to think them infallible when it grows up." 

" But though it may know that there must be faults," replied 
•Molly, "it ought to cover them over and try to forget their existence. "t. 

"It ought. But don't you see I have grown up outside the pale 
of duty and ' oughts.' Love mo as I am, sweet one, for I shall 
;aever be better." 



YoL. I. 15 



( 226 ) 



CHAPTER XX. 

MES. GIBSON'S VISITORS. 

One day, to Molly's iufiuitc surprise, Mr. Prestou was announced as 
a caller. Mrs. Gibson and she were sitting together in the drawing- 
room ; Cynthia was out — gone into the town a-shojoping — when the 
door was opened, the name given, and in walked the young man. 
His entrance seemed to cause more confusion than Molly could well 
account for. He came in with the same air of easy assurance with 
which he had received her and her father at Ashcombe Manor-house. 
He looked remarkably handsome in his riding-dress, and with the 
open-air exercise he had just had. But Mrs. Gibson's smooth brows 
contracted a little at the sight of him, and her reception of him was 
much cooler than that which she usually gave to visitors. Yet there 
was a degree of agitation in it, which surprised Molly a little. Mrs. 
Gibson was at her everlasting worsted-work frame when he entered 
the room ; but somehow in rising to receive him, she threw down 
her basket of crewels, and, declining Molly's offer to help her, she 
would pick up all the reels herself, before she asked her visitor to sit 
dovm. He stood there, hat in hand, affecting an interest in the 
recoveiw of the worsted v/hich Molly was sure he did not feel ; for all 
the time his eyes were glancing round the room, and taking note of 
the details in the arrangement. 

At length they were seated, and conversation began. 

"It is the first time I have been in HoUingford since j'our 
marriage, Mrs. Gibson, or I should certainly have called to pay my 
respects sooner." 

" I know you are very busy at Ashcombe. I did not expect you 
to call. Is Lord Cumnor at the Towers '? I have not heard from 
her ladyship for more than a week ! " 

"No! he seemed still detained at Bath. But I had a letter 



MES. GIBSON'S VISITORS. 227 

from him giving me certain mess.iges for Mr. Sheepshanks. Mr. 
Gibson is not at home, I'm afraid ? " 

"No. He is a great deal out — almost constantly, I may say. I 
had uo idea that I should see so little of him. A doctor's wife leads 
a very solitary life, Mr. Preston ! " 

" You can hardly call it solitary, I should think, when you have 
such a companion as Miss Gibson always at hand," said he, bowing 
to Molly. 

" Oh, but I call it solitude for a wife when her husband is away. 
Poor Mr. Kirkpatrick was never happy unless I always went with 
him ; — all his walks, all his visits, he liked me to be with him. But 
somehow Mr. Gibson feels as if I should be rather in his way." 

" I don't think you could ride pillion behind him on Black Bess, 
mamma," said Molly. "And unless you could do that, you could 
hardly go with him in his rounds up and down all the rough lanes." 

" Oh ! but he might keep a brougham ! I've often said so. 
And then I could use it for visiting in the evenings. Eeally it was 
one reason why I didn't go to the Hollingford Charity Ball. I 
couldn't bring myself to use the dirty fly from the ' Angel.' We 
really must stir papa up against next winter, Molly ; it will never do 
for you and " 

She pulled herself up suddenly, and looked fartively at Mr. Preston 
to see if he had taken any notice of her abruptness. Of course 
he had, but he was not going to show it. He turned to Molly, and 
said, — 

" Have you ever been to a public ball yet, Miss Gibson ? " 

"No!" said Molly. 

" It will be a great pleasure to you when the time comes." 

" I'm not sure. I shall like it if I have plenty of partners ; but 
I'm afi-aid I shan't know many people." v 

" And you suppose that young men haven't their own ways and 
means of being introduced to pretty girls ? " 

It was exactly one of the speeches Molly had disliked him for 
before ; and delivered, too, in that kind of underbred manner which 
showed that it was meant to convey a personal compliment. Molly 
took great credit to herself for the unconcerned manner with which 
she went on with her tattling exactly as if she had never heard it. 

" I only hope I may be one of your partners at the first ball you 
go to. Pray, remember my early application for that honour, when 
you are overwhelmed with requests for dances." 

15—2 



228 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

"I don't choose to engage myself beforehand," said Molly, 
perceiving, from under her dropped eyelids, that he was leaning 
forward and looking at her as though he was determined to have an 
answer. 

"Young ladies are always very cautious in fact, however modest 
they may he in profession," he replied, addressing himself in a non- 
chalant manner to Mrs. Gibson. " In spite of Miss Gibson's appre- 
hension of not having many partners, she declines the certainty of 
having one. I suppose Miss Kirkpatrick will have returned from 
France before then ?" 

He said these last words exactly in the same tone as he had used 
before ; but Molly's instinct told her that he was making an effort 
to do so. She looked up. He was playing with his hat, almost as 
if he did not care to have any answer to his question. Yet he was 
listening acutely, and with a half smile on his face. 
Mrs. Gibson reddened a little, and hesitated, — 
"Yes; certainly. My daughter will be with us next winter, I 
believe ; and I daresay she will go out with us." 

" "Why can't she say at once that Cynthia is here now?" asked 
Molly of herself, yet glad that Mr. Preston's curiosity was baffled. 

He still smiled ; but this time he looked up at Mrs. Gibson, as 
he asked, — " You have good news from her, I hope ?" 

" Yes ; veiy. By the way, how are our old friends the Robinsons ? 
How often I think of their kindness to mo at Ashcombe ! Dear 
good people, I wish I could see them again." 

" I will certainly tell them of your kind inquiries. They are 
very well, I believe." 

Just at this moment, Molly heard the familiar sound of the click 
and opening of the front door. She knew it must be Cynthia ; and, 
conscious of some mysterious reason which made Mrs. Gibson wish 
to conceal her daughter's whereabouts from Mr. Preston, and ma- 
liciously desirous to baffle him, she rose to leave the room, and meet 
Cynthia on the stairs ; but one of the lost crewels of worsted had 
entangled itself in her gown and feet, and before she had freed herself 
of her encumbrance, Cynthia had opened the drawing-room door, 
and stood in it, looking at her mother, at Molly, at Mr. Preston, but 
not advancing one step. Her colour, which had been brilliant the 
first moment of her entrance, faded away as she gazed ; but her 
eyes — her beautiful eyes — usually so soft and grave, seemed to fill 
with fire, and her brows to contract, as she took the resolution to 



MRS. GIBSON'S VISITORS. 229 

come forwanl and take licr place among the three, who were all 
looking at her with diflerent emotions. She moved calmly and 
slowly forwards ; Mr. Preston went a step or two to meet her, his 
hand held out, and the whole expression of his face that of eager 
delight. 

But she took no notice of the outstretched hand, nor of the chair 
that he otTered her. She sate down on a little sofa in one of the 
windows, and called Molly to her. 

"Look at my purchases," said she. "This green ribhon was 
fourteen-pence a yard, this silk three shillings," and so she went on, 
forcing herself to speak about these trifles as if they were all the 
world to her, and she had no attention to throw away on her mother 
and her mother's visitor. 

Mr. Preston took his cue from her. He, too, talked of the news 
of the day, the local gossip — but Molly, who glanced up at him from 
time to time, was almost alarmed by the bad expression of suppressed 
auger, nearly amounting to vindictiveness, which entirely marred his 
handsome looks. She did not wish to look again ; and tried rather 
to back up Cynthia's efforts at maintaining a separate conversation. 
Yet she could not help overhearing Mrs. Gibson's strain after increased 
civility, as if to make up for Cynthia's rudeness, and, if possible, to 
deprecate his anger. She talked perpetually, as though her object 
were to detain him ; whereas, previous to Cynthia's return, she had 
allowed frequent pauses in the conversation, as though to give him 
the opportunity to take his leave. 

In the course of the conversation between them the Hamleys 
came up. Mrs. Gibson was never unwilling to dwell upon Molly's 
intimacy with this county family ; and when the latter caught the 
sound of her own name, her stepmother was saying, — 

"Poor Mrs. Hamley could hardly do without Molly; she quite 
looked upon her as a daughter, especially towards the last, when, I 
am afraid, she had a good deal of anxiety. Mr. Osborne Hamley — 
I daresay you have heard — he did not do so well at college, and they 
had expected so much — parents will, you know ; but what did it 
signify ? for he had not to earn his living ! I call it a very foolish 
kind of ambition when a young man has not to go into a profession." 

" Well, at any rate, the squire must be satisfied now. I saw this- 
morning's Times, with the Cambridge examination lists in it. Isn't 
the second son called after his father, Pioger ?" 

" Yes," said Molly, starting up, and coming nearer. 



230 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" He's senior wrangler, that's all," said Mr. Preston, almost as 
though he were vexed with himself for having anything to say that 
could give her pleasure. Molly went back to her seat by Cynthia. 

"Poor Mrs. Hamley," said she, very softly, as if to herself. 
Cynthia took her hand, in sympathy with Molly's sad and tender 
look, rather than because she understood all that was passing in her 
mind, nor did she quite understand it herself. A death that had 
come out of time ; a wonder whether the dead knew what passed 
upon the earth they had left — the brilliant Osborne's failure, Pioger's 
success ; the vanity of human wishes, — all these thoughts, and what 
they suggested, were inextricably mingled up in her mind. She 
came to herself in a few minutes. Mr. Preston was saying all the 
unpleasant things he could think of about the Hamleys in a tone of 
false sjTupathy. 

" The poor old squire — not the wisest of men — has woefully mis- 
managed his estate. And Osborne Hamley is too fine a gentleman 
to understand the means by which to improve the value of the land 
— even if he had the capital. A man who had practical knowledge 
of agriculture, and some thousands of ready money, might bring the 
rental up to eight thousand or so. Of course, Osborne will try and 
marry some one with money ; the family is old and well-established, 
and he mustn't object to commercial descent, though I daresay the 
squire will for him ; but then the young fellow himself is not the 
man for the work. No ! the family's going down fast ; and it's a 
pity when these old Saxon houses vanish ofi' the land ; but it is 
' kismet ' with the Hamleys. Even the senior wrangler — if it is 
that Roger Hamley — he will have spent all his brains in one efibrt. 
You never hear of a senior wrangler being worth anything afterwards. 
He'll be a Fellow of his college, of course — that will be a livelihood 
for him at any rate." 

" I believe in senior wranglers," said Cynthia, her clear high 
voice ringing through the room. " And from all I've ever heard of 
Mr. Roger Hamley, I believe he will keep up the distinction he has 
earned. And I don't believe that the house of Hamley is so near 
extinction in wealth and fame, and good name." 

" They are fortunate in having Miss Kirkpatrick's good word," 
said Mr. Preston, rising to take his leave. 

"Dear Molly," said Cynthia, in a whisper, "I know nothing 
about your friends the Hamleys, except that they are your fiiends, 
and what you have told me about them. But I won't have that man 



MRS. Gibson's visitors. 231 

speaking of tliem so — and your eyes filling with tears all the time. 
I'd sooner swear to their having all the talents and good fortune 
under the sun." 

The only person of whom Cynthia appeared to be wholesomely 
afraid was Mr. Gibson. When he was present she v/as more careful 
in speaking, and showed more deference to her mother. Her evident 
respect for Mr. Gibson, and desire for his good opinion, made her 
curb herself before him ; and in this manner she earned his good 
favour as a lively, sensible girl, with just so much knowledge of the 
world as made her a very desirable companion to Molly. Indeed, 
she made something of the same kind of impression on all men. 
They were first struck with her personal appearance ; and then with 
her pretty deprecating manner, which appealed to them much as if 
she had said, " You are wise, and I am foolish — have mercy on my 
folly." It was a way she had; it meant nothing really; and she 
was hardly conscious of it herself; but it was veiy captivating all 
the same. Even old "Williams, the gardener, felt it ; he said to his 
confidante, Molly — 

" Eh, miss, but that be a rare young lady ! She do have such 
pretty coaxing ways. I be to teach her to bud roses come the season 
— and I'll warrant ye she'll learn sharp enough, for all she says she 
bees so stupid." 

If Molly had not had the sweetest disposition in the world she might 
have become jealous of all the allegiance laid at Cynthia's feet ; but 
she never thought of comparing the amount of admiration and love 
which they each received. Yet once she did feel a little as if Cynthia 
were poaching on her manor. The invitation to the quiet dinner had 
been sent to Osborne Hamley, and declined by him. But he thought 
it right to call soon afterwards. It was the first time Molly had seen 
any of the family since she left the Hall, since Mrs. Hamley's death ; 
and there was so much that she wanted to ask. She tried to wait 
patiently till Mrs. Gibson had exhausted the first gush of her infinite 
nothings ; and then Molly came in with her modest questions. How 
was the squire '? Had he returned to his old habits ? Had his 
health sufiered ? — putting each inquiry with as light and delicate a 
touch as if she had been dressing a wound. She hesitated a little, a 
yery little, before speaking of Roger; for just one moment the 
thought flitted across her mind that Osborne might feel the contrast 
between his own and his brother's college career too painfully to 
like to have it referred to ; but then she remembered the generous 



232 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

brotherly love that had always existed between the two, and had just 
entered upon the subject, when Cynthia in obedience to her mother's 
summons, came into the room, and took up her work. No one 
coukl have been quieter — she hardly uttered a word ; but Osborne 
seemed to fall under her power at once. He no longer gave his 
undivided attention to Molly. He cut short his answers to her 
questions ; and by-and-by, without Molly's rightly understanding how 
it was, he had turned towards Cynthia, and was addressing himself 
to her. Molly saw the look of content on Mrs. Gibson's face ; 
perhaps it was her own mortification at not having heard all she 
wished to know about Roger, that gave her a keener insight than 
usual, but certain it is that all at once she perceived that Mrs. Gibson 
would not dislike a marriage between Osborne and Cynthia, and 
considered the present occasion as an auspicious beginning. Re- 
membering the secret which she had been let into so unwillingly, 
Molly watched his behaviour, almost as if she had been retained in 
the interest of the absent wife ; but, after all, thinking as much of 
the possibility of his attracting Cynthia as of the unknown and myste- 
rious Mrs. Osborne Hamlcy. His manner was expressive of great 
interest and of strong prepossession in favour of the beautiful girl to 
whom he was talking. He was in deep mourning, which showed off 
his slight figure aud delicate refined face. But there was nothing 
of flirting, as far as Molly ixnderstood the meaning of the word, in 
either looks or words, Cynthia, too, was extremely quiet ; she was 
always much quieter with men than with women ; it was part of the 
charm of her soft allurement that she was so passive. They were 
talking of France. Mrs. Gibson herself had passed two or three 
years of her girlhood there ; and Cynthia's late return from Boulogne 
made it a very natural subject of conversation. But Molly was 
thrown out of it ; and with her heart still unsatisfied as to the details 
of Roger's success, she had to stand up at last, and receive Osborne's 
good-by, scarcely longer or more intimate than his farewell to 
Cynthia. As soon as he was gone, Mrs. Gibson began in his 
praise. 

" Well, really, I begin to have some faith in long descent. What 
a gentleman he is ! How agreeable and polite ! So difi"erent from 
that forward Mr. Preston," she continued, looking a little anxious at 
Cynthia. Cynthia, quite aware that her reply was being watched 
for, said, coolly, — 

" Mr. Preston doesn't improve on acquaintance. There was a 



MRS. GIBSON'S VISITORS. 233 

time, mamma, ■\\-licn I think both you aud I thought him very 
agreeable." 

" I don't remember. You've a clearer memory than I have. 
But we were talking of this delightful Mr. Osborne Hamley. Why, 
Molly, you were always talking of his brother — it was Roger this, 
and Roger that — I can't think how it was you so seldom mentioned 
this young man." 

" I didn't know I had mentioned Mr, Roger Hamley so often," 
said Molly, blushing a little. " But I saw much more of him — he 
was more at home." 

" Well, well ! It's all right, my dear. I daresay he suits you 
best. But really, when I saw Osborne Hamley close to my Cynthia, 
I couldn't help thinking — but perhaps I'd better not tell you what I 
was thinking of. Only they are each of them so much above the 
average in appearance; and, of course, that suggests things." 

" I pei-fectly understand what j-ou are thinking of, mamma," said 
Cynthia, with the greatest composure ; " and so does Molly, I have 
no doubt." 

" Well ! there's no harm in it, I'm sure. Did you hear him say 
that, though he did not like to leave his father alone just at present, 
yet that when his brother Roger came back from Cambridge, he 
should feel more at liberty ! It was quite as much as to say, ' If 
you will ask me to dinner then, I shall be delighted to come.' And 
chickens will be so much cheaper, and cook has such a nice way of 
boning them, and doing them up with forcemeat. Everything seems 
to be falling out so fortunately. And Molly, my dear, you know I 
won't forget you. By-and-by, when Roger Hamley has taken his 
turn at stopping at home with his father, we will ask him to one of 
our little quiet dinners," 

Molly was very slow at taking this in ; but in about a minute the 
sense of it had reached her brain, and she went all over veiy red 
and hot ; especially as she saw that Cynthia was watching the light 
come into her mind with great amusement, 

" I'm afraid Molly isn't properly grateful, mamma. If I were 
you, I wouldn't exert myself to give a dinner-party on her account. 
Bestow all your kindness upon me." 

Molly was often puzzled by Cynthia's speeches to her mother ; 
and this was one of these occasions. But she was more anxious 
to say something for herself; she was so much annoyed at the 
implication in Mrs. Gibson's last words. 



234 AVIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" iJr. Koger Ilixmley has been veiy good to me ; lie Vv'as a great 
deal at home -when I was there, and Mr, Osborue Hamley was very 
little there : that was the reason I spoke so much more of one than 
the other. If I had — if he had," — losing her coherence in the 
difficulty of finding words, — " I don't think I should. Oh, Cj-nthia, 
instead of laughing at me, I think you might help me to explain 
myself!" 

Instead, Cynthia gave a diversion to the conversation. 

" Mamma's paragon gives me an idea of weakness. I can't 
quite make out whether it is in body or mind. Which is it, 
Molly?" 

" He is not strong, I know; but he is very accomplished and 
clever. Every one says that, — even papa, who doesn't generally 
praise young men. That made the puzzle the greater when he did 
60 badly at college." 

" Then it's his character that is weak. I'm sure there's weakness 
somewhere ; but he's very agreeable. It must have been very 
pleasant, staying at the Hall." 

" Yes ; but it's all over now." 

" Oh, nonsense !" said Mrs. Gibson, wakening up from counting 
the stitches in her pattern. " We shall have the young men coming 
to dinner pretty often, you'll see. Your father likes them, and I 
shall always make a point of welcoming his friends. They can't go 
on mourning for a mother for ever. I expect we shall see a great 
deal of them ; and that the two families will become veiy intimate. 
After all, these good HoUingford people are terribly behindhand, and 
I should sa}', rather commonplace." 



( 235 ) 



CHAPTER XXI. 

THE HiVLF-SISTERS. 

It appeared as if Mrs. Gibson's predictions were likely to be verified; 
for Osborne Hamley found liis way to her drawing-room pretty fre- 
quently. To be sure, sometimes prophets can help on the fulfilment 
of their own prophecies ; and Mrs. Gibson was not passive. 

Molly was altogether puzzled by his manners and ways. He 
spoke of occasional absences from the Hall, without exactly saying 
■where he had been. But that was not her idea of the conduct of a 
married man ; who, she imagined, ought to have a house and servants, 
and pay rent and taxes, and live with his wife. AVho this mysterious 
■wife might be faded into insignificance before the wonder of where 
she was. London, Cambridge, Dover, nay, even France, vrere 
mentioned by him as places to which he had been on these different 
little journeys. These facts came out quite casually, almost as if he 
was unaware of what he was betraying ; sometimes he dropped out 
such sentences as these : — " Ah, that would be the day I was 
crossing ! It was stormy indeed ! Instead of our being only two 
hours, we were nearly five." Or, " I met Lord HoUingford at 
Dover last week, and he said," &c. " The cold now is nothing %o 
what it was in London on Thursday — the thermometer was down at 
15°." Perhaps, in the rapid flow of conversation, these small reve- 
lations were noticed by no one but Molly ; whose interest and 
curiosity were always hovering over the secret she had become pos- 
sessed of, in spite of all her self-reproach for allowing her thoughts 
to dwell on what was still to be kept as a mystery. 

It was also evident to her that Osborne was not too happy at 
home. He had lost the slight touch of cynicism which he had 
-affected when he was expected to do wonders at coUege ; and that 
was one good result of his failure. If he did not give himself the 



236 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

trouble of appreciating other people, and their performances, at any 
rate his conversation was not so amply sprinkled with critical pepper. 
He was more absent, not so agreeable, Mrs. Gibson thought, but 
did not say. He looked ill in health ; but that might be the conse- 
quence of the real depression of spirits which Molly occasionally 
saw peeping out through all his pleasant' surface-talk. Now and 
then, when he was talking directly to her, he referred to " the happy 
days that are gone," or, " to the time when my mother was alive ;" 
and then his voice sank, and a gloom came over his countenance, and 
Molly longed to express her own deep sympathy. He did not often 
mention his father ; and ]\Iolly thought she could read in his 
manner, when he did, that something of the painful restraint she had 
noticed when she was last at the Hall still existed between them. 
Nearly all that she knew of the family interior she had heard from 
Mrs. Hamley, and she was uncertain as to how far her father was 
acquainted with them ; so she did not like to question him too 
closely ; nor was he a man to be so questioned as to the domestic 
affairs of his patients. Sometimes she wondered if it was a dream — 
that short half-hour in the library at Hamley Hall — when she had 
learnt a fact which seemed so ill-important to Osborne, yet which 
made so little diflereuce in his way of life — either in speech or 
action. During the twelve or fourteen hours that she had remained 
at the Hall afterwards, no further allusion had been made to his 
marriage, either by himself or by Roger. It was, indeed, very like 
a dream. Probably Molly would have been rendered much more 
uncomfortable in the possession of her secret if Osborne had struck 
her as particularly attentive in his devotion to Cynthia. She evi- 
dently amused and attracted him, but not in any lively or passionate 
kind of manner. He admired her beauty, and seemed to feel her 
charm ; but he would leave her side, and come to sit near Molly, if 
anything reminded him of his mother, about which he could talk to 
her, and to her alone. Yet he came so often to the Gibsons, that 
Mrs. Gibson might be excused for the fancy she had taken into her 
head, that it was for Cynthia's sake. He liked the lounge, the 
friendliness, the compauy^of two inteUigent girls of beauty and manners 
above the average ; one of whom stood in a peculiar relation to him, 
as having been especially beloved by the mother whose memory he 
cherished so fondly. Knowing himself to be out of the category 
of bachelors, he was, perhaps, too indifferent as to other people's 
ignorance, and its possible consequences. 



THE HALF-SISTERS. 237 

Somehow, Molly did not like to Le the first to introduce Roger's 
name into the conversation, so she lost many an opportunity of 
hearing intelligence about him. Osborne was often so languid or so 
absent that he only followed the lead of talk ; and as an awkward 
fellow, who had paid her no particular attention, and as a second son, 
Koger was not pre-eminent in Mrs. Gibson's thoughts ; Cynthia had 
never seen him, and the freak did not take her often to speak about 
him. He had not come home since he had obtained his high 
place in the mathematical lists : that Molly knew ; and she knew, 
too, that he was working hard for something — she supposed a 
fellowship — and that was all. Osborne's tone in speaking of him 
was always the same : eveiy word, eveiy inflexion of the voice 
breathed out affection and respect — nay, even admiration ! And 
this from the nil admirayi brother, who seldom carried his exertions 
so far. 

"Ah, Roger!" he said one day. Molly caught the name in 
an instant, though she had not heard what had gone before. "He 
is a fellow in a thousand — in a thousand, indeed ! I don't believe 
there is his match anywhere for goodness and real solid power 
combined." 

" Molly," said Cynthia, after Mr. Osborne Hamley had gone, 
what sort of a man is this Roger Hamley '? One can't tell how much 
to believe of his brother's praises ; for it is the one subject on which 
Osborne Hamley becomes enthusiastic. I've noticed it once or twice 
before." 

While Molly hesitated on which point of the large round to begin 
her description, Mrs. Gibson struck in, — 

" It just shows what a sweet disposition Osborne Hamley is of — 
that he should praise his brother as he does. I daresay he is a 
senior wrangler, and much good may it do him ! I don't deny that f 
but as for conversation, he's as heavv- as heavy can be. A gi-eat 
awkward fellow to boot, who looks as if he did not know two and two 
made four, for all he is such a mathematical genius. You would 
hardly believe he was Osborne Hamley's brother to see him ! I 
should not think he has a profile at all." 

"What do you think of him, Molly?" said the persevering 
Cynthia. 

" I like him," said Molly. " He has been veiT kind to me. I 
know he isn't handsome like Osborne." 

It was rather difficult to say all this quietly, but Molly managed 



238 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

to do it, quite aware that Cynthia would not rest till she had ex- 
tracted some kind of an opinion out of her. 

" I suppose he will come home at Easter," said Cynthia, " and 
then I shall see him for myself." 

" It's a great pity that their being in mourning will prevent theix* 
going to the Easter charity ball," said Mrs. Gibson, plaintively. " I 
shan't like to take you two girls, if you are not to have any 
partners. It will put me in such an awkward position. I wish we 
could join on to the Towers party. That would secure you partners,, 
for they always bring a number of dancing men, who might dance 
Avith you after they had done their duty by the ladies of the house. 
But really eveiything is so changed since dear Lady Cumnor has- 
been an invalid that, perhaps, they won't go at all." 

This Easter ball was a great subject of conversation with Mrs. 
Gibson. She sometimes spoke of it as her first appearance in society 
as a bride, though she had been visiting once or twice a week all 
winter long. Then she shifted her ground, and said she felt so 
much interest in it, because she would then have the responsibiUty 
of introducing both her own and Mr. Gibson's daughter to public 
notice, though the fact was that pretty nearly every one who was 
going to this ball had seen the two young ladies — though not their 
ball dresses — before. But, aping the manners of the aristocracy as 
flu- as she knew them, she intended to " bring out " Molly and Cynthia 
on this occasion, which she regarded in something of the light of a 
presentation at Court. " They are not out yet," was her favourite 
excuse when cither of them was invited to any house to which she 
did not wish them to go, or they were invited without her. She even 
made a difficulty about their " not being out " when Miss Browning — 
that old friend of the Gibson's family — came in one morning to ask 
the two girls to come to a friendly tea and a round game afterwards ; 
this mild piece of gaiety being designed as an attention to three of 
Mrs. Goodenough's grandchildren — two young ladies and their school- 
boy brother — who were staying on a visit to their grandmamma. 

" You are very kind. Miss Browning, but, you see, I hardly like to 
let them go — they are not out, you know, till after the Easter ball." 

" Till when we are invisible," said Cynthia, always ready with her 
mockery to exaggerate any pretension of her mother's. " We are so 
high in rank that our sovereign must give us her sanction before we 
can play a round game at your house."' 

Cynthia enjoyed the idea of her own full-grown size and stately 



THE HALF-SISTERS. 239 

gait, as contrasted with that of a meek, half-fledged girl iu the 
nursery ; but Miss Browning was half puzzled and half affronted. 

" I don't understand it at all. In my days girls went wherever 
it j)leased people to ask them, without this farce of bursting out in all 
their new fine clothes at some public place. I don't mean but what 
the gentry took their daughters to York, or Matlock, or Bath to give 
them a taste of gay society when they were growing up ; and the 
quality went up to London, and their young ladies were presented to 
Queen Charlotte, and went to a birthday ball, perhaps. But for us 
little Hollingford people, why we knew every child amongst us from 
the day of its birth ; and many a girl of twelve or fourteen have I 
seen go out to a card-party, and sit quiet at her work, and know how 
to behave as well as any lady there. There was no talk of ' coming 
out ' in those days for any one under the daughter of a squire." 

" After Easter, Molly and I shall know how to behave at a card- 
party, but not before," said Cynthia, demurely. 

" You're always fond of your quips and your cranks, my dear," 
said Miss Browning, " and I wouldn't quite answer for your behaviour : 
you sometimes let your spirits carry you away. But I'm quite sure 
Molly will be a little lady as she always is, and always was, and I 
have known her from a babe." 

Mrs. Gibson took up arms on behalf of her own daughter, or, 
rather, she took up arms against Molly's praises. 

" I don't think you would have called Molly a lady the other day. 
Miss Browning, if you had found her where I did : sitting up in a 
cherry-tree, six feet from the ground at least, I do assure you." 

" Oh ! but that wasn't pretty," said Miss Browning, shaking her 
head at Molly. " I thought you'd left off those tom-boy ways." 

" She wants the refinement which good society gives in several 
waj'S," said Mrs. Gibson, returning to the attack on poor Molfy. 
" She's very apt to come upstairs two steps at a time." 

" Only two, Molly ! " said Cynthia. " Why, to-day I found I 
could manage four of these broad shallow steps." 

" My dear child, what are you saying ? " 

" Only confessing that I, like Molly, want the refinements which 
good society gives ; therefore, please do let us go to Miss Brownings* 
this evening. I will pledge myself for Molly that she shan't sit in a 
cherry-tree ; and Molly shall see that I don't go upstairs in an 
unladylike way. I will go upstau's as meekly as if I were a come- 
out young lady, and had been to the Easter ball." 



240 WIVES AXD DAUGHTERS. 

So it was agreed that they shoultl go. If Mr. Osborne Hamley 
had been named as one of the probable visitors, there would have 
been none of this difficulty about the afiair. 

But though he was not there his brother Roger was. Molly saw 
him in a minute when she entered the little drawing-room ; but 
Cynthia did not. 

" And see, my dears," said Miss Phcebe Browning, turning them 
round to the side where Roger stood waiting for his turn of speaking 
to Molly, "we've got a gentleman for you after all! Wasn't it 
fortunate ? — just as sister said that you might find it dull— you, 
Cynthia, she meant, because you know you come from France ; and 
then, just as if he had been sent from heaven, Mr. Roger came in to 
call ; and I won't say we laid violent hands on him, because he was 
too good for that ; but really we should have been near it, if he had 
stayed of his own accord." 

The moment Roger had done his cordial greeting to Molly, he 
asked her to introduce him to Cynthia. 

" I want to know her — your new sister," he added, with the 
kind smile Molly remembered so well since the very first day she had 
seen it directed towards her, as she sate crying under the weeping 
ash. Cynthia was standing a little behind Molly when Roger asked 
for this introduction. She was generally dressed with careless grace. 
Molly who was delicate neatness itself, used sometimes to wonder how 
Cynthia's tumbled gowns, tossed away so untidily, had the art of 
looking so well, and falling in such graceful folds. For instance, 
the pale lilac muslin gown she wore this evening had been worn many 
times before, and had looked unfit to wear again till Cynthia put it 
on. Then the limpness became softness, and the very creases took 
the lines of beauty. Molly, in a daintily clean pink muslin, did not 
look half so elegantly dressed as Cynthia. The grave eyes that the 
latter raised when she had to be presented to Roger had a sort of 
ehild-like innocence and wonder about them, w'hich did not quite 
belong to Cynthia's character. She put on her armour of magic that 
evening — involuntarily as she always did ; but, on the other side, she 
could not help trying her power on strangers. Molly had always felt 
that she should have a right to a good long talk with Roger when she 
next saw him ; and that he would tell her, or she should gather from 
him all the details she so longed to hear about the Squire — about the 
Hall — about Osborne — about himself. He was just as cordial and 
friendly as ever with her. If Cynthia had not been there, all would 



H 




RonER IS INTHODOCE'n ANT) ENSI^AVED. 



THE HALF-SISTERS. 241 

have gone on as she had anticipated ; but of all the victims to 
Cynthia's charms he fell most prone and abject. Molly saw it all, as 
she was sitting next to Miss Phoebe at the tea-table, acting right- 
hand, and passing cake, cream, sugar, with such busy assiduity that 
every one besides herself thought that her mind, as well as her 
hands, was fully occupied. She tried to talk to the two shy girls, as 
in virtue of her two years' seniority she thought herself bound to do ; 
and the consequence was, she went upstairs with the twain clinging 
to her arms, and willing to swear an eternal friendship. Nothing 
would satisfy them but that she must sit between them at vingt-un ; 
and they were so desirous of her advice in the important point of 
fixing the price of the counters that she could not ever have joined 
in the animated conversation going on between Roger and Cynthia. 
Or, rather, it would be more correct to say that Roger was talking in 
a most animated manner to Cynthia, whose sweet eyes were fixed 
upon his face with a look of great interest in all he was saying, 
while it was only now and then she made her low replies. Molly 
caught a few words occasionally in intervals of business. 

"At my uncle's, we always give a silver threepence for three 
dozen. You know what a silver threepence is, don't you, dear Miss 
Gibson ? " 

" The three classes are published in the Senate House at nine 
o'clock on the Friday morning, and you can't imagine — " 

" I think it will be thought rather shabby to play at anything 
less than sixpence. That gentleman" (this in a whisper) "is at 
Cambridge, and you know they always play very high there, and 
sometimes ruin themselves, don't they, dear Miss Gibson ? " 

" Oh, on this occasion the Master of Arts who precedes the can- 
didates for honours when they go into the Senate House is called the 
Father of the College to which he belongs. I think I mentioned 
that before, didn't I ? " 

So Cynthia was hearing all about Cambridge, and the veiy 
examination about which Molly had felt such keen interest, without 
having ever been able to have her questions answered by a competent 
person ; and Roger, to whom she had always looked as the final and 
most satisfactory answerer, was telling the whole of what she wanted 
to know, and she could not listen. It took all her patience to make 
up little packets of counters, and settle, as the arbiter of the game, 
whether it would be better for the round or the oblong counters to be 
reckoned as six. And when all was done, and every one sate in their 

Vol. I. 16 



242 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

places rouud the table, Roger and Cynthia liad to be called twice 
before they came. They stood up, it is true, at the first sound of 
their names ; but they did not move — Roger went on talking, 
Cynthia listening till the second call ; when they hurried to the 
table and tried to appear, all on a sudden, quite interested in the 
great questions of the game — namely, the price of three dozen 
counters, and whether, all things considered, it would be better to 
call the round counters or the oblong half-a-dozen each. Miss 
Browning, drumming the pack of cards on the table, and quite ready 
to begin dealing, decided the matter by saying, " Rounds are sixes, 
and three dozen counters cost sixpence. Pay up, if you please, and 
let us begin at once." Cynthia sate between Roger and William 
Osborne, the young schoolboy, who bitterly resented on this occasion 
his sister's habit of calling him " Willie," as he thought it M'as this 
boyish sobriquet which prevented Cynthia from attending as much 
to him as to Mr. Roger Hamley ; he also was charmed by the 
charmer, who found leisure to give him one or two of her sweet 
smiles. On his return home to his grandmamma's, he gave out one 
or two very decided and rather original opinions, quite opposed — as 
was natural — to his sister's. One was — • 

" That, after all, a senior wrangler was no great shakes. Any 
man might be one if he liked, but there were a lot of fellows that he 
knew who would be very sorry to go in for anything so slow." 

Molly thought the game never would end. She had no par- 
ticular turn for gambling in her ; and whatever her card might be, 
she regularly put on two counters, indifferent as to whether she won 
or lost. Cj-nthia, on the contrary, staked high, and was at one time 
very rich, but ended by being in debt to Molly something like six 
shillings. She had foifgotten her purse, she said, and was obliged to 
borrow from the more provident 3Iolly, who was aware that the round 
game of which Miss Browning had spoken to her was likely to 
require money. If it was not a very merry affair for all the 
individuals concerned, it was a very noisy one on the whole. Molly 
thought it was going to last till midnight ; but punctually, as the 
clock struck nine, the little maid-servant staggered in under the 
weight of a tray loaded with sandwiches, cakes, and jelly. This 
brought on a general move ; and Roger, vdio appeared to have been 
on the watch for something of the kind, came and took a chair by 
Molly. 

" I am so glad to see you again — it seems such a long time since 



THE HALF-SISTERS. 243 

Christmas," said lio, dropping his voice, and not alluding more 
exactly to the day when she had left the Hall. 

" It is a long time," she replied ; " we are close to Easter now. 
I have so wanted to tell you how glad I was to hear about your 
honours at Cambridge. I once thought of sending you a message 
through your brother, but then I thought it might be making too 
much fuss, because I know nothing of mathematics, or of the value 
of a senior wranglership ; and you were sure to have so many con- 
gratulations fi'om people who did know." 

" I missed yours though, Molly," said he, kindly. *' But I felt 
sure 5'ou were glad for me." 

" Glad and proud too," said she. " I should so like to hear 
something more about it. I heard you telling Cynthia " 

" Yes. What a charming person she is ! I should think yon 
must be happier than we expected long ago." 

" But tell me something about the senior wranglership, please," 
said Molly. 

" It's a long story, and I ought to be helping the Miss Brownings 
to hand sandwiches — besides, you wouldn't find it very interesting, 
it's so full of technical details." 

" Cynthia looked very much interested," said Molly. 

" Well ! then I refer you to her, for I must go now. I can't for 
shame go on sitting here, and letting those good ladies have all the 
trouble. But I shall come and call on Mrs. Gibson soon. Are you 
walking home to-night ? " 

" Yes, I think so," replied Molly, eagerly foreseeing what was to 

come. 

" Then I shall walk home with you. I left my horse at the 
* Angel,' and that's half-way. I suppose old Betty will allow me to 
accompany you and your sister ? You used to describe her as so^pe- 
thing of a di-agon." 

" Betty has left us," said Molly, sadly. " She's gone to live at a 
place at Ashcombe." 

He made a face of dismay, and then went off to his duties. The 
short conversation had been very pleasant, and his manner had had 
just the brotherly kindness of old times ; but it was not quite the 
manner he had to Cynthia ; and Molly half thought she would have 
prefen-ed the latter. He was now hovering about Cynthia, who had 
declined the offer of refreshments from WiUie Osborne. Roger was 
tempting her, and with playful entreaties urging her to take some- 

16—2 



244 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

tiling from him. Every "word they said could be heard by the whole 
room ; yet every word was said, on Roger's part at least, as if he 
could not have spoken it in that peculiar manner to any one else. 
At length, and rather more because she was weary of being entreated, 
than because it was his wish, C}Tithia took a macaroon, and Roger 
seemed as happy as though she had crowned him with flowers. The 
whole affair was as trifling and commonplace as could bo in itself ; 
hardly worth noticing ; and yet Molly did notice it, and felt uneasy ; 
she could not tell why. As it turned out, it was a rainy night, and 
Mrs. Gibson sent a fly for the two girls instead of old Betty's sub- 
stitute. Both Cynthia and Molly thought of the possibility of their 
taking the two Osborne girls back to their grandmother's, and so 
saving them a wet walk ; but Cynthia got the start in speaking about 
it ; and the thanks and the implied praise for thoughtfulness were hers. 

When they got home Mr. and Mrs. Gibson were sitting in the 
drawing-room, quite ready to be amused by any details of the evening. 

Cynthia began, — 

" Oh ! it wasn't veiy entertaining. One didn't expect that," and 
she yawned wearily. 

" Who were there ? " asked Mr. Gibson. " Quite a young party 
— wasn't it ? " 

" They'd only asked Lizzie and Fanny Osborne, and their 
brother ; but Mr. Roger Hamley had ridden over and called on Miss 
Brownings, and they had kept him to tea. No one else." 

" Roger Hamley there ! " said Mr. Gibson. " He's come home 
then. I must make time to ride over and see him." 

"You'd much better ask him here," said Mrs. Gibson. " Sup- 
pose you invite him and his brother to dine here on Friday, my dear. 
It would be a very pretty attention, I think." 

" My dear ! these young Cambridge men have a very good taste 
in wine, and don't spare it. My cellar won't stand many of theii' 
attacks." 

" I didn't think you were so inhospitable, Mr. Gibson." 

" I'm not inhospitable, I'm sure. If you'll put * bitter beer ' in 
the corner of your notes of invitation, just as the smart people put 
' quadrilles ' as a sign of the entertainment ofl'ered, we'll have 
Osborne and Roger to dinner any day you like. And what did you 
think of my favourite, Cynthia ? You hadn't seen him before, I 
think?" 

"Oh! he's nothing like so handsome as his brother; nor so 



THE HALF-SISTERS. 245 

polished ; nor so easy to talk to. He entertained me for more than 
an hour with a long account of some examination or other ; but 
there's something one likes about him." 

" "Well — and Molly," said Mrs. Gibson, who piqued herself on 
being an impartial stepmother, and who always tried hard to make 
Molly talk as much as Cynthia, — " what sort of an evening have 
you had ? " 

" Veiy pleasant, thank you." Her heart a little belied her as 
she said this. She had not cared for the round game ; and she 
would have cared for Eoger's conversation. She had had what she 
was indifferent to, and not had what she would have liked. 

"We've had our unexpected visitor, too," said Mr. Gibson. 
" Just after dinner who should come in but Mr. Preston. I fancy 
he's having more of the management of the Hollingford property 
than formerly. Sheepshanks is getting an old man. And if so, I 
suspect we shall see a good deal of Preston. He's * no blate,' as 
they used to say in Scotland, and made himself quite at home to- 
night. If I'd asked him to stay, or, indeed, if I'd done an}i,hing but 
yawn, he'd have been here now. But I defy any man to stay when 
I have a fit of yawning." 

" Do you like Mr. Preston, papa ? " asked Molly. 

" About as much as I do half the men I meet. He talks well, 
and has seen a good deal. I know very little of him, though, 
except that he's my lord's steward, which is a guarantee for a good 
deal." 

" Lady Harriet spoke pretty strongly against him that day I was 
with her at the Manor-house." 

" Lady Harriet's always full of fancies : she likes persons to-day, 
and dislikes them to-morrow," said Mrs. Gibson, who was touched 
on her sore point whenever Molly quoted Lady Harriet, or said atiy- 
thing to imply ever so transitory an intimacy with her. 

" You must know a good deal about Mr. Preston, my dear. I 
suppose you saw a good deal of him at Ashcombe ? " 

Mrs. Gibson coloured, and looked at Cynthia before she repHed. 
Cynthia's face was set into a determination not to speak, however 
much she might be referred to. 

" Yes ; we saw a good deal of him — at one time, I mean. He's 
changeable, I think. But he always sent us game, and sometimes 
fruit. There were some stories against him, but I never believed 
them." 



246 ' WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. "*^ 

" What kind of stories ? " said Mr. Gibson, quickly. 

" Oh, vague stories, you know : scandal, I daresay. No one 
ever believed them. He could be so agreeable if he chose ; and my 
lord, who is so very particular, would never have kept him as agent 
if they were true ; not that I ever knew what they were, for I con- 
sider all scandal as abominable gossip." 

" I'm very glad I yawned in his face," said Mr. Gibson. ** I 
hope he'll take the hint." 

" If it was one of your giant-gapes, papa, I should call it more 
than a hint," said Molly. " And if you want a yawning chorus the 
nest time he comes, I'll join in ; won't you, C}Tithia ? " 

" I don't know," replied the latter, shortly, as she lighted her 
bed-candle. The two girls had usually some nightly conversation in 
one or other of their bed-rooms ; but to-night Cynthia said some- 
thing or other about being tenibly tired, and hastily shut her 
door. 

The very next day, Eoger came to pay his promised call. Molly 
was out in the garden with Williams, planning the arrangement of 
some new flower-beds, and deep in her employment of placing pegs 
upon the lawn to mark out the different situations, when, standing 
up to mark the effect, her eye was caught by the figure of a gentle- 
man, sitting with his back to the light, leaning forwards aud talking, 
or listening, eagerly. Molly knew the shape of the head perfectly, 
and hastily began to put off her brown-holland gardening apron, 
emptying the pockets as she spoke to Williams. 

" You can finish it now, I think," said she. " You know about 
the bright- coloured flowers being against the privet-hedge, and where 
the new rose-bed is to be ? " 

" I can't justly say as I do," said he. " Mebbe, you'll just go 
o'er it all once again, Miss Molly. I'm not so young as I oncst was, 
and my head is not so clear now-a-days, and I'd be loath to make 
mistakes when you're so set upon your plans." 

Molly gave up her impulse in a moment. She saw that the old 
gardener was really perplexed, yet that he was as anxious as he 
could be to do his best. So she went over the ground again, peg- 
ging and explaining till tho wrinkled brow was smooth again, and he 
kept saying, " I see, miss. All right. Miss Molly, I'se getten it in 
my head as clear as patchwork now." 

So she could leave him, and go in. But just as she was close to 
the garden door, Roger came out. It really was for once a case of 



THE HALF-SISTERS. 247 

virtue its own reward, for it was far pleasauter to her to have him iu 
a tete-a-tete, however short, than iu the restraint of Mrs. Gibson's 
anil Cynthia's presence. 

" I only just found out whore you were, Molly. Mrs. Gibson 
said you had gone out, but she didn't know where ; and it was the 
greatest chance that I turned round and saw you." 

"I saw you some time ago, but I couldn't leave Williams. I 
think he was unusually slow to-day ; and he seemed as if he couldn't 
understand my plans for the new flower-beds." 

"Is that the paper you've got in your hand? Let me look at 
it, will you ? Ah, I see ! you've borrowed some of your ideas from 
our garden at home, haven't you ? This bed of scarlet geraniums, 
with the border of young oaks, pegged down ! That was a fancy of 
my dear mother's." 

They were both silent for a minute or two. Then Molly said, — 

" How is the squire ? I've never seen him since." 

" No, he told me how much he wanted to see you, but he couldn't 
make up his mind to come and call. I suppose it would never do 
now for you to come and stay at the Hall, would it ? It would give 
my father so much pleasure : he looks upon you as a daughter, and 
I'm sure both Osborne and I shall always consider you are like a 
sister to us, after all my mother's love for you, and your tender care 
of her at last. But I suppose it wouldn't do." 

" No ! certainly not," said Molly, hastily. 

" I fancy if you could come it would put us a little to rights. 
You know, as I think I once told you, Osborne has behaved difi'er- 
eutly to what I should have done, though not wrongly, — only what I 
call an error of judgment. But my father, I'm sure, has taken up 

some notion of never mind ; only the end of it is that he holds 

Osborne still in tacit disgrace, and is miserable himself all the tame. 
Osborne, too, is sore and unhappy, and estranged from my father. 
It is just what my mother would have put right very soon, and per- 
haps you could have done it — unconsciously, I mean — for this 
wretched mystery that Osborne preserves about his affairs is at the 
root of it all. But there's no use talking about it ; I don't know 
why I began." Then, with a wrench, changing the subject, while 

Molly still thought of what he had been telling her, he broke out, 

"I can't tell you how much I like Miss Kirkpatrick, Molly. It 
must be a great pleasure to you having such a companion ! " 

"Yes," said Molly, half smiling. "I'm very fond of her; and 



248 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

I thiuk I like her better every day I know her. But how quickly 
you have found out her virtues ! " 

"I didn't say 'virtues,' did I? " asked he, reddening, but put- 
ting the question in all good faith. " Yet I don't ..hiuk one could 
be deceived in that face. And Mrs. Gibson appears to be a veiy 
friendly person, — she has asked Osborne and me to dine here on 
Friday." 

" Bitter beer " came into Molly's mind; but what she said was, 
" And are you coming ? " 

"Certainly, I am, unless my father wants me; and I've given 
Mrs. Gibson a conditional promise for Osborne, too. So I shall seo 
you all very soon again. But I must go now. I have to keep an 
appointment seven miles from here in half-an-hour's time. Good 
luck to your flower-garden, Molly." \ 



/ 



( 249 ) 



CHAPTER XXII. 

'the old SQUIRE'S TROUBLES. 

Affairs were going on worse at the Hall than Eoger had liked to tell. 
Moreover, very much of the discomfort there arose from " mere 
manner," as people express it, which is always indescribable and 
indefinable. Quiet and passive as Mrs. Hamley had always been in 
appearance, she was the ruling spirit of the house as long as she 
lived. The directions to the servants, down to the most minute 
particulars, came from her sitting-room, or from the sofa on which 
she lay. Her children always knew where to find her ; and to find 
her, was to find love and sympathy. Her husband, who was often 
restless and angry from one cause or another, always came to her to 
he smoothed down and put right. He was conscious of her pleasant 
influence over him, and became at peace with himself when in her 
presence ; just as a child is at ease when with some one who is both 
firm and gentle. But the keystone of the family arch was gone, and 
the stones of which it was composed began to fall apart. It is always 
sad when a sorrow of this kind seems to injure the character of the 
mourning survivors. Yet, perhaps, this injury may be only tem- 
porary or superficial; the judgments so constantly passed upon^he 
way people bear the loss of those whom they have deeply loved, 
appear to be even more cruel, and wrongly meted out, than human 
judgments generally are. To careless observers, for instance, it 
would seem as though the squire was rendered more capricious and 
exacting, more passionate and authoritative, by his wife's death. 
The truth was, that it occurred at a time when many things came to 
harass him, and some to bitterly disappoint him ; and slie was no 
longer there to whom he used to carry his sore heart for the gentle 
balm of her sweet words, if the sore heart ached and smarted in- 
tensely ; and often, when he saw how his violent conduct affected 



250 "WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

others, he could have cried out for their pity, instead cf ^heir auger 
and resentment : " Have mercy upon me, for I am very miserable." 
How often have such dumb thoughts gone up from the heirts of 
those who have taken hold of their sorrow by the wrong cLd, as 
prayers against sin ! And when the squire saw that his sei'vants 
v;ere learning to dread him, and his first-born to avoid him, he did 
not blame them. He knew he was becoming a domestic tyrant ; it 
seemed as if all circumstances conspired against him, and as if he 
was too weak to struggle with them ; else, why did everything in 
doors and out of doors go so wrong just now, when all he could have 
done, had things been prosperous, was to have submitted, in very 
imperfect patience, to the loss of his wife. But just when ho needed 
ready money to pacify Osborne's creditors, the harvest had turned 
out remarkably plentiful, and the price of corn had sunk down to a 
level it had not touched for years. The squire had insured his life 
at the time of his marriage for a pretty large sum. It was to be a 
provision for his wife, if she had survived him, and for their younger 
children. Roger was the only representative of these interests now; 
but the squire was unwilling to lose the insurance by ceasing to pay 
the annual sum. He would not, if he could, have sold any part 
of the estate which he inherited from his father ; and, besides, it was 
strictly entailed. He had sometimes thought how wise a step it 
would have been could he have sold a portion of it, and with the 
purchase-money have drained and reclaimed the remainder ; and at 
length, learning from some neighbour that Government would make 
certain advances for drainage, &c., at a veiy low rate of interest, on 
condition that the work was done, and the money repaid, within a 
given time, his wife had urged him to take advantage of the proffered 
loan. But now that she was no longer there to encourage him, and 
take an interest in the progress of the work, he grew indifferent to it 
himself, and cared no more to go out on his stout roan cob, and sit 
square on his seat, watching the labourers on the marshy land all 
overgrown with rushes ; speaking to them from time to time in their 
own strong nervous country dialect : but the interest to Government 
had to be paid all the same, whether the men worked well or ill. 
Then the roof of the Hall let in the melted snow-water this winter ; 
and, on examination, it turned out that a new roof was absolutely 
required. The men who had come about the advances made to 
Osborne by the London money-lender, had spoken disparagingly of 
the timber on the estate — " Very fine trees — sound, perhaps, too, 



THE OLD PQUIllE'S TROUBLES. 251 

fifty years ago, but gone to rot now ; had wanted lopping and 
clearing. Was there no wood-ranger or forester ? They were 
nothing like the value young Mr. Hamley had represented them to 
be of." The remarks had come round to the squire's ears. He loved 
the trees he had played under as a boy as if they were living 
creatures ; that was on the romantic side of his nature. Merely 
looking at them as representing so many pounds sterling, he had 
esteemed them highly, and had had, until now, no opinion of another 
by which to correct his own judgment. So these words of the valuers 
cut him shai-p, although he affected to disbelieve them, and tried to 
persuade himself that he did so. But, after all, these cares and 
disappointments did not touch the root of his deep resentment 
against Osborne. There is nothing like wounded affection for giving 
poignancy to auger. And the squire believed that Osborne and his 
advisers had been making calculations, based upon his ov.ti death. 
He hated the idea so much — it made him so miserable — that he would 
not face it, and define it, and meet it with full inquiry and investiga- 
tion. He chose rather to cherish the morbid fancy that he was 
useless in this world — born under an unlucky star — that all things 
went badly under his management. But he did not become humble 
in consequence. He put his misfortunes down to the score of Fate — 
not to his own ; and he imagined that Osborne saAV his failures, and 
that his first-born grudged him his natural term of life. All these 
fancies would have been set to rights could he have talked them over 
with his wife ; or even had he been accustomed to mingle much in 
the society of those whom he esteemed his equals ; but, as has been 
stated, he was inferior in education to those who should have been 
his mates ; and perhaps the jealousy and manvaise Jionte that this 
inferiority had called out long ago, extended itself in some measure 
to the feelings he entertained towards his sons — less to Roger than 
to Osborne, though the former was turning out by far the most 
distinguished man. But Roger was practical ; interested in all out- 
of-doors things, and he enjoyed the details, homely enough, which 
his father sometimes gave him of the every-day occurrences which 
the latter had noticed in the woods and the fields. Osborne, on the 
contrary, was, what is commonly called " fine ; " delicate almost to 
effeminacy in dress and in manner; careful in small observances. 
All this his father had been rather proud of in the days when he 
looked forward to a brilliant career at Cambridge for his son ; he 
had at that time regarded Osborne's fastidiousness and elegance as 



252 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

another stepping-stone to the high and prosperous marriage which 
was to restore the ancient fortunes of the Hamley family. But now 
that Osborne had barely obtained his degree ; that all the boastings 
of his father had proved vain ; that the fastidiousness had led to un- 
expected expenses (to attribute the most innocent cause to Osborne's 
debts), the poor young man's ways and manners became a subject of 
irritation to his father. Osborne was still occupied with his books 
and his writings when he was at home ; and this mode of passing 
the greater part of the day gave him but few subjects in common with 
his father when they did meet at meal times, or in the evenings. 
Perhaps if Osborne had been able to have more out-of-door amuse- 
ments it would have been better ; but he was short-sighted, and cared 
little for the carefully observant pursuits of his brother ; he knew but 
few young men of his own standing in the county ; his hunting even, 
of which he was passionately fond, had been curtailed this season, 
as his father had disposed of one of the two hunters he had been 
hitherto allowed. The whole stable establishment had been reduced; 
perhaps because it was the economy which told most on the enjoy- 
ment of both the squire and Osborne, and which, therefore, the 
former took a savage pleasure in enforcing. The old carriage — a 
heavy family coach bought in the days of comparative prosperity — 
was no longer needed after madam's death, and fell to pieces in the 
cobwebbed seclusion of the coach-house. The best of the two 
carriage-horses was taken for a gig, which the squire now set up ; 
saying many a time to all who might care to listen to him that it was 
the first time for generations that the Hamleys of Hamley had not 
been able to keep their own coach. The other carriage-horse was 
turned out to grass ; being too old for regular work. Conqueror 
used to come whinnying up to the park palings whenever he saw the 
squire, who had always a piece of bread, or some sugar, or an apple 
for the old favourite ; and would make many a complaining speech to 
the dumb animal, telling him of the change of times since both were in 
their prime. It had never been the squire's custom to encourage his 
boys to invite their friends to the Hall. Perhaps this, too, was owing 
to his viauvaise houte, and also to an exaggerated consciousness of 
the deficiencies of his establishment as compared with what he 
imagined these lads were accustomed to at home. He explained this 
once or twice to Osborne and Roger when they were at Rugby. 

" You see, all you public schoolboys have a kind of freemasonry 
of your own, and outsiders are looked on by you much as I look on 



THK OLD squire's TROUBLES. 253 

rabbits and all that isn't game. Ay, you may laugh, but it is so ; 
and your friends will throw their eyes askance at me, and never think 
on my pedigree, which would beat theirs all to shivers, I'll be bound. 
No ; I'll have no one here at the Hall who will look down on a Hamlcy 
of Hamley, even if he only knows how to make a cross instead of 
WTite his name." 

Then, of course, they must not visit at houses to whose sons the 
squire could not or would not return a like hospitality. On all these 
points Mrs. Hamley had used her utmost influence without avail ; his 
prejudices were immoveable. As regarded his position as head of the 
oldest family in three counties, his pride was invincible ; as regarded 
himself personally — ill at ease in the society of his equals, deficient 
in manners, and in education — his morbid sensitiveness was too sore 
and too self-conscious to be called humility. 

Take one instance from among many similar scenes of the state 
of feeling between the squire and his eldest son, which, if it could 
not be called active discord, showed at least passive estrangement. 

It took place on an evening in the March succeeding Mrs. Ham- 
ley's death. Roger was at Cambridge. Osborne had also been from 
home, and he had not volunteered any information as to his absence. 
The squire believed that Osborne had been either in Cambridge with 
his brother, or in London ; he would have liked to hear where his 
son had been, what he had been doing, and whom he had seen, 
precisely as pieces of news, and as some diversion from the domestic 
worries and cares which were pressing him hard ; but he was too 
proud to ask any questions, and Osborne had not given him any 
details of his journey. This silence had aggravated the squire's 
internal dissatisfaction, and he came home to dinner weai*y and sore- 
hearted a day or two after Osborne's return. It was just six o'clock, 
and he went hastily into his own little business-room on the ground- 
floor, and, after washing his hands, came into the drawing-room 
feeling as if he were very late, but the room was empty. He glanced 
at the clock over the mantel-piece, as he tried to warm his hands at 
the fire. The fire had been neglected, and had gone out during the 
day ; it was now piled up with half-dried wood, which sputtered and 
smoked instead of doing its duty in blazing and warming the room, 
through which the keen wind was cutting its way in all directions. 
The clock had stopped, no one had remembered to wind it up, but by 
the squire's watch it was already past dinner-time. The old butler 
put his head into the room, but, seeing the squire alone, he was 



254 WIVES AND DAUGHTEUS. 

iibout to draw it back, and wait for Mr. OsLorne, before announcing 
dinner. He had hoped to do this unperceived, but the squire caught 
him in the act. 

" Why isn't dinner ready ? " he called out sharply. " It's ten 
minutes past six. And, pray, why are you using this wood ? It*s 
impossible to get oneself warm by such a fire as this." 

" I believe, sir, that Thomas " 

" Don't talk to me of Thomas. Send dinner in directly." 

About five minutes elapsed, spent by the hungry squii'e in all 
sorts of impatient ways — attacking Thomas, who came in to look 
after the fire ; knocking the logs about, scattering out sparks, but 
considerably lessening the chances of warmth ; touching up the 
caudles, which appeared to him to give a light unusually insufficient 
for the large cold room. While he was doing this, Osborne came in 
dressed in full evening dress. He always moved slowly ; and this, 
to begin with, irritated the squire. Then an uncomfortable con- 
sciousness of a black coat, drab trousers, checked cotton cravat, and 
splashed boots, forced itself upon him as he saw Osborne's point- 
device costume. He chose to consider it affectation and finery in 
Osborne, and was on the point of bursting out with some remark, 
Avhen the butler, who had watched Osborne do\^^lstairs before making 
the announcement, came in to say dinner was readj'. 

" It surely isn't six o'clock ? " said Osborne, pulling out his 
dainty little watch. He was scarcely more unaware than it of the 
storm that was brewing. 

" Six o'clock ! It's more than a quarter past," growled out his 
father. 

" I fancy your watch must be wrong, sir. I set mine by the 
Horse Guards only two days ago." 

Now, impugning that old steady, turnip-shaped watch of the 
squire's was one of the insults which, as it could not reasonably be 
resented, was not to be forgiven. That watch had been given him 
by his father when watches were watches long ago. It had given 
the law to house-clocks, stable-clocks, kitchen-clocks — nay, even to 
Hamley Church clock in its day ; and was it now, in its respectable old 
age, to be looked down upon by a little whipper-snapper of a French 
watch which could go into a man's waistcoat pocket, instead of having 
to be extricated, with due efforts, like a respectable watch of size and 
position, from a fob in the waistband. No ! not if the whipper- 
snapper were backed by all the Horse Guards that ever were, with 



THE OLD squire's TROUBLES. 255 

tlic Life Guards to boot. Poor Osborne might have known better 
than to cast this slur on his father's flesh and blood ; for so dear did 
he hold his watch ! 

" My watch is like myself," said the squire, ' giming,' as the 
Scotch say — " plain, but steady-going. At any rate, it gives the law 
in my house. The King may go by the Horse Guards if he likes." 

" I beg your pardon, sir," said Osborne, really anxious to keep 
the peace, " I went by my watch, which is certainly right by London 
time ; and I'd no idea you were waiting for me ; otherwise I could 
have dressed much quicker." 

" I should think so," said the squire, looking sarcastically at his 
son's attire. ""When I was a young man I should have been 
ashamed to have spent as much time at my looking-glass as if I'd 
been a girl. I could make myself as smart as any one when I was 
going to a dance, or to a party where I was likely to meet pretty 
girls ; but I should have laughed myself to scorn if I'd stood fiddle- 
faddling at a glass, smirking at my own likeness, all for my own 
pleasure." 

Osborne reddened, and was on the point of letting fly some 
caustic remark on his father's dress at the present moment ; but he 
contented himself with saying, in a low voice, — 

' ' My mother always expected us all to dress for dinner. I got 
into the habit of doing it to please her, and I keep it up now." 
Indeed, he had a certain kind of feeling of loyalty to her memoiy in 
keeping up all the little domestic habits and customs she had insti- 
tuted or preferred. But the contrast which the squire thought was 
implied by Osborne's remark, put him beside himself. 

" And I, too, try to attend to her wishes. I do ; and in more 
important things. I did when she was alive ; and I do so now." 

"I never said you did not," said Osborne, astonished at his 
father's passionate words and manner. 

" Yes, you did, sir. You meant it. I could see by your looks. 
I saw you look at my morning coat. At any rate, I never neglected 
any wish of hers in her lifetime. If she'd wished me to go to school 

again and learn my A, B, C, I would. By I would; and I 

wouldn't have gone plajdng me, and lounging away my time, for fear 
of vexing and disappointing her. Y''et some folks older than school- 
boys " 

The squire choked here ; but though the words would not come 
his passion did not diminish. "I'll not have you casting up your 



256 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

mother's wishes to me, sir. You, who went near to break her heart 
at last ! " 

OsLorne was strongly tempted to get up and leave the room. 
Perhaps it would have been better if he had ; it might then have 
brought about an explanation, and a reconciliation between father 
and son. But he thought he did well in sitting still and appearing 
to take no notice. This indifference to what he was saying appeared 
to annoy the squire still more, and he kept on grumbling and talking 
to himself till Osborne, unable to bear it any longer, said, very 
quietly, but very bitterly — 

" I am only a cause of irritation to you, and home is no longer 
home to me, but a place in which I am to be controlled in trifles, and 
scolded about trifles as if I were a child. Put me in a way of 
making a living for myself — that much your oldest son has a right to 
ask of you — I will then leave this house, and you shall be no longer 
vexed by my dress, or my want of punctuality." 

"You make your request pretty much as another son did long 
ago : ' Give me the portion that falleth to me.' But I don't think 

what he did with his money is much encouragement for me to .'' 

Then the thought of how little he could give his son his "portion," 
or any part of it, stopped the squire. 

Osborne took up the speech. 

" I'm as ready as any man to earn my living ; only the prepara- 
tion for any profession will cost money, and money I haven't got." 

" No more have I," said the squire, shortly. 

" What is to be done then ? " said Osborne, only half believing 
his father's words. 

" Why, you must learn to stop at home, and not take expensive 
journeys ; and you must reduce your tailor's bill. I don't ask you 
to help me in the management of the land — you're far too fine a 
gentleman for that ; but if you can't earn money, at least you 
needn't spend it." 

" I've told you I'm willing enough to earn money," cried Osborne, 
passionately at last. "But how am I to do it? You really are 
very unreasonable, sir." 

"Am I?" said the squire — cooling in manner, thougb not in 
temper, as -Osborne grew warm. " But I don't set up for being 
reasonable ; men who have to pay away money that they haven't got 
for their extravagant sons aren't likely to be reasonable. There's 
two things you've gone and done which put me beside myself, when I 



THE OLD squire's TROUBLES. 257 

tliiuk of tliem ; you've turned out next tloor to a cluuce at college, 
Avhen your poor mother thought so much of you — aucl when yoix 
might have pleased and gratified her so if you chose — and, well ! I 
•R-ou"t say -what the other thing is." 

" Tell me, sir," said Osborne, almost breathless with the idea 
that his father had discovered his secret marriage ; but the father 
was thinking of the money-lenders, who were calculating how soon 
Osborne would come into the estate. 

" No ! " said the Squire. " I know what I know ; and I'm not 
going to tell you how I know it. Only, I'll just say this — your 
friends no more know a piece of good timber when they see it than 
you or I know how you could earn five pounds if it was to keep you 
from starving. Now, there's Eoger — we none of us made an ado 
about him ; but he'll have his fellowship now, I'll warrant him, and 
be a bishop, or a chancellor, or something, before we've found out 
he's clever — we've been so much taken up thinking about you. I 
don't know what's come over me to speak of ' wo ' — ' we ' in this 
way," said he, suddenly dropping his voice, — a change of voice as 
sad as sad could be. " I ought to say 'I ;' it will be 'I' for ever- 
more in this world." 

He got up and left the room in quick haste, knocking over his 
chair, and not stopping to pick it up. Osborne, who was sitting and 
shading his eyes with his hand, as he had been doing for some time, 
looked up at the noise, and then rose as quickly and hurried after his 
lather, only in time to hear the study- door locked on the inside the 
moment ho reached it. 

Osborne returned into the dining-room chagrined and sorrowful. 
But he was always sensitive to any omission of the usual observances, 
v.-hich might excite remark ; and even with his heavy heart he was 
careful to pick up the fallen chair, and restore it to its place near tfte 
bottom of the table ; and afterwards so to disturb the dishes as to 
make it appear that they had been touched, before ringing for 
Robinson. When the latter came in, followed by Thomas, Osborne 
thought it necessary to say to him that his father was not well, and 
had gone into the study ; and that he himself wanted no dessert, but 
would have a cup of cofl'ee in the drawing-room. The old butler 
sent Thomas out of the room, and came up confidentially to Osborne. 

"I thought master wasn't justly himself, Mr. Osborne, before 
dinner. And, therefore, I made excuses for him — I did. He spoke 
to Thomas about the fire, sir, which is a thing I could in nowise put 
Vol. I. 17 



258 WIVES AXD DAUGKTEP.S. 

up v/ith, unless by reason of sickness, wliicli I am always ready to 
make allowances for.' 

" V/liy shouldn't my father speak to Thomas ? " said Osborne. 
"But, perhaps, he spoke angrily, I daresay; for I'm sure he's not 
well." 

" No, Mr, Osborne, it wasn't that. I myself am given to anger ; 
nnd I'm blessed with as good health as any man in my years. Be- 
sides, anger's a good thing for Thomas. He needs a deal of it. 
But it should come from the right quarter — and that is me, myself, 
Mv. Osborne. I know my place, and I know my rights and duties as 
well as any butler that lives. And it's my duty to scold Thomas, 
and not master's. Master ought to have said, ' Kobinson ! you must 
speak to Thomas about letting out the fire,' and I'd ha' given it him 
well, — as I shall do uov/, for that matter. But as I said before, I 
make excuses for master, as being in mental distress and bodily ill- 
health ; so I've brought myself round not to give warning, as I 
should ha' done, for certain, under happier circumstances." 

" Beally, Bobinson, Ithink it's all great nonsense," said Osborne^ 
weary of the long story the butler had told him, and to v,'hich he had 
not half attended. " What in the world does it signify whether my 
father speaks to you or to Thomas ? Bring me coSee in the di-awing- 
room, and don't trouble your head any more about scolding Thomas." 
Piobinson went away offended at his grievance being called non- 
sense. He kept muttering to himself in the intervals of scolding 
Thomas, and saying, — " Things is a deal changed since poor missis 
•went. I don't v/onder master feels it, for I'm sure I do. She was a 
lady who had always a becoming respect for a butler's position, and 
could have understood how he might bo hurt in his mind. She'd 
never ha' called his delicacies of feehugs nonsense — not she ; no 
more would Mr. Boger. He"s a merry joung gentleman, and over- 
fond of bringing dirty, slimy creatures into the house ; but he's 
always a kind word for a man who is hurt in his mind. He'd cheer 
up the squire, and keep him from getting so cross and wilful. I 
■wish Mr. Boger was here, I do." 

The poor squire, shut up with his grief and his iil-tcmpcr as 
well, in the dingy, dreary study in which he daily spent more and 
more of his indoors life, turned over his cares and troubles till ho 
-was as bewildered with the process as a squirrel must be in going 
round in a cage. He had out day-books and ledgers, and was calcu- 
Litiug up back-rents ; and every time the sum-totals came to different 



THE OLD squire's TROUBLES. 259 

amounts. He could have cried like a child over his sums ; he Avas 
"worn out aud wearj^ angry and disappointed. He closed his books 
at last Avith a bang. 

" I'm getting old," he said, " and my head's less clear than it 
used to be. I think sorrow for her has dazed me. I never was 
much to boast on ; but she thought a deal of me — bless her. She'd 
never let me call myself stupid ; but, for all that, I am stupid. 
Osborne ought to help me. He's had money enough spent on his 
learning ; but, instead, he comes down dressed like a popinjay, and 
never troubles his head to think how I'm to pay his debts. I wish 
I'd told him to earn his living as a dancing-master," said the squire, 
with a sad smile at his own wit. " He's dressed for all the world 
like one. And how he's spent the money no one knows ! Perhaps 
Eoger will turn up some day with a heap of creditors at his heels. 
No, he won't — not Eoger ; he may be slow, but he's steady, is old 
Eoger. I msh he vras hero. He's not the eldest son, but he'd take 
an interest in the estate ; and he'd do up these v*"eary accounts for 
mo. I wish Eoger was here ! " 



17—-' 



( 260 



CHAPTER XXIII. 
osBOEXE iia:mley revie^ys his positiox. 

OsBOEKE had his solitaiy cup of cofiee in the draT\'iug-roora, He 
was Yery unhappy too, after his fashion. He stood on the hearth-rug 
pondering over his situation. He was not exactly aware how hardly 
his father was pressed for ready-money ; the squire had never spoken 
to him on the subject without being angry ; and many of his loose 
contradictory statements — all of which, however contradictory they 
might appear, had their basis in truth — were set down by his son to 
the exaggeration of passion. But it was uncomfortable enough to a 
young man of Osborne's age to feel himself continually hampered 
for want of a five-pound note. The principal supplies for the liberal 
— almost luxurious table at the Hall, came off the estate ; so that 
there was no appearance of poverty as far as the household went ; 
and as long as Osborne was content at home, he had everything he 
could wish for ; but he had a wife elsewhere— he wanted to see her 
continually — and that necessitated journeys. She, poor thing ! had 
to be supported — where was the money for the journeys and for 
Aimee's modest wants to come from ? That was the puzzle in 
Osborne's mind just now. While he had been at college his allow- 
ance — heir of the Hamleys — had been three hundred, while Roger 
had to be content with a hundred less. The payment of these annual 
sums had given the squire a good deal of trouble; but he thought 
of it as a merely temporary inconvenience; perhaps unreasonably 
thought so. Osborne was to do great things; take high honours, 
get a fellowship, marry a long-descended heiress, live in some of the 
many uninhabited rooms at the Hall, and help the squire in the 
management of the estate that would some time be his. Roger was 
to be a clergyman ; steady, slow Roger, was just fitted for that, and 
when he declined entering the Church, prefening a life of more 



OSRORNE IIAAILEY REVIEWS HIS POSITION. 2G1 

activity and adventure, lloger was to bo anything ; he was useful and 
practical, and fit for all the employments from which Osborne was 
shut out by his fastidiousness, and his (pseudo) genius ; so it was 
well he was an eldest sou, for he would never have done to struggle 
through the world ; and as for his settling down to a profession, it 
would be like cutting blocks with a razor ! And now here was 
Osborne, living at home, but longing to be elsewhere ; his allowance 
stopped in reahty ; indeed the punctual payment of it during the last 
year or two had been owing to his mother's exertions ; but nothing 
had been said about its present cessation by either father or son ; 
money matters were too sore a subject between them. Every now 
and then the squire threw him a ten-pound note or so ; but the sort 
of suppressed growl with which it was given, and the entire uncer- 
tainty as to when he might receive such gifts, rendered any calculation 
based upon their receipt exceedingly vague and uncertain. 

" "What in the world can I do to secure an income ?" thought 
Osborne, as he stood on the hearth-rug, his back to a blazing fire, 
his cup of coffee sent up in the rare old china that had belonged to 
the Hall for generations ; his dress finished, as dress of Osborne's 
could hardly fail to be. One could hardly have thought that this 
elegant young man, standing there in the midst of comfort that 
verged on luxury, should have been turning over that one great 
problem in his mind ; but so it was. " What can I do to be sure 
of a present income '? Things cannot go on as they are. I should 
need support for two or three years, even if I entered myself at the 
Temple, or Lincoln's Inn. It would be impossible to live on my pay 
in the army ; besides, I should hate that profession. In fact, there 
are evils attending all professions — I couldn't bring myself to become 
a member of any I've ever heard of. Perhaps I'm more fitted to 
take orders than anything else ; but to be compelled to write weeWy 
sermons whether one had anything to say or not, and, probably, 
doomed only to associate with people below one in refinement and 
education ! Yet poor Aimee must have money. I can't bear to 
compare our dinners here, overloaded with joints and game and 
sweets, as Dawson will persist in sending them up, with Aimee's two 
little mutton-chops. Yet what would my father say if he knew I'd 
married a Frenchv>-oman ? In his present mood he'd disinherit me, 
if that is possible ; and he"d speak about her in a way I couldn't 
stand. A Roman Catholic, too ! Well, I don't repent it. I'd do it 
again. Only if my mother had been in good health — if she could 



262 -^VIVES AXD DAUGHTERS. 

have liearcl my story, aud kuoAvn Aimee ! As it is I must keep it 
secret ; but where to get money ? Where to get money ?" 

Then ho bethought him of his poems — would they sell, and bring 
him in money ? In spite of Milton, he thought they might ; and he 
went to fetch his MSS. out of his room. He sate down near the 
fire, trying to study them with a critical eye, to represent public 
opinion as far as he could. He had changed his style since the 
"Mrs. Hemans' days. He was essentially imitative in his poetic 
faculty ; and of late he had followed the lead of a popular writer of 
sonnets. He turned his poems over : they were almost equivalent to 
an autobiographical passage in his life. Arranging them in their 
order, they came as follows : — 

" To Aimee, Walking with a Little Child." 

" To Aimee, Singing at her Yv^'ork." 

" To Aimee, Turning away from me while I told my Love." 

" Aimee 's Confession." 

" Aimee in Despair." 

" The Foreign Land in which my Aimee dwells." 

"The Wedding Ring." 

" The Wife." 

When he came to this last sonnet he put down his bundle of 
papers and began to think. " The wife." Yes, and a French wife ; 
and a Roman Catholic v.'ife — and a wife who might be said to have 
been in service ! And his father's hatred of the French, botli collec- 
tively and individually — collectively, as tumultuous brutal ruffians, 
who murdered their king, and committed all kinds of bloody atro- 
cities — individually, as represented by " Boney," and the various 
caricatures of " Johnny Crapaud " that had been in full circulation 
about five-and-twenty years before this time, when the squire had 
been young and capable of receiving impressions. As for the form 
of reHgion in which Mrs. Osborne Hamley had been brougiit up, it is 
enough to say that Catholic emancipation had begun to be talked 
about by some politicians, and that the sullen roar of the majority 
of Englishmen, at the bare idea of it, was surging in the distance 
with ominous threatenings ; the very mention of such a measure 
before the squire was, as Osborne well knew, like shaking a red flag 
before a bull. 

And then he considered that if Aimee had had the unspeakable, 
the incomparable blessing of being born of English parents, in the 
vcrv heart of England — Warwickshire, for instance — and had never 



OSBOIINE IIAIILEY REVIEWS KIS TOSITIOX. 2G3 

lioai'cl of priests, or mass, or coufession, or the Pope, or Guy Fawkes, 
but had been born, baptized, and bred in the Church of England, 
without having cver^secn the outside of a dissenting meeting-house, 
or a papist chapel — even with all these advantages, her having been 
a (what was the equivalent for "bonne" in English? nursery- 
governess was a term hardly invented) nursery-maid, with wages 
paid down once a quarter, liable to be dismissed at a month's 
warning, and having her tea and sugar doled out to her, would be 
a shock to his father's old ancestral pride that he v/ould hardly ever 
get over. 

" If he saw her!" thought Osborno. "If he could but sea 
her !" But if the squire were to see Aimec, he v.-ould also hear her 
speak her pretty broken English — precious to her husband, as it was 
in it that she had confessed brokenly with her English tongue, that 
she loved him soundly with her French heart — and Squire Hamley 
piqued himself on being a good hater of the French. " She would 
make such a loving, sweet, docile little daughter to my father — 
she would go as near as any one could towards filiiug up the 
blank void in this house, if he could but have her ; but he won't ; 
he never would ; and he sha'n't have the opportunity of scouting 
her. Yet if I called her "Lucy" in these sonnets; and if they 
made a great effect — were praised in Blachvood and the Quarterhf 
— and all the world was agog to find out the author ; and I told him 
my secret — I could if I were successful — I think then he would ask 
who Lucy was, and I could tell him all then. If — how I hate ' ifs.' 
' If me no ifs. My life has been based on ' wheus ; ' and first they 
have turned to ' ifs,' and then they had vanished away. It was 
' when Osborne gets honours,' and then ' if Osborne,' and then a 
failure altogether. I said to Aimee, ' when my mother sees you,' 
and now it is ' if my father saw her,' with a very faint prospe(^t of 
its ever coming to pass." So ho let the evening hours flow on and 
disappear in reveries like these ; winding up with a sudden determi- 
nation to try the fate of his poems with a publisher, with the dii-ect 
expectation of getting] money for them, and an ulterior fancy that, if 
successful, they might work wonders with his father. 

"When Ptoger came home Osborne did not let a day pass before 
telling his brother of his plans. He never did conceal anythmg long 
from Eoger; the feminine part of his character made him always 
desirous of a confidant, and as sweet sympathy as he could extract. 
But Roger's opinion had no cfiect on Osborne's actions ; and Roger 



264 VriVES AXD DAL'GHTEES. 

knew this full well. So when Osborne began ■n-itli — " I want your 
advice on a plan I have got in my head," Roger replied : " Some 
cue told me that the Duke of Wellington's maxim was never to give 
advice unless he could enforce its being carried into eflect ; now I 
can't do that ; and you know, old boy, you don't follow out my 
advice when you've got it." 

" Not always, I know. Not when it does not agree with my own 
opinion. You're thinking about this concealment of my marriage ; 
but you're not up in all the circumstances. You know how fully I 
meant to have done it, if there had not been that row about my 
debts ; and then my mother's illness and death. And now you've 
no conception how my father is changed — how irritable he has 
become ! Wait till you've been at home a week ! Robinson, 
Morgan — it's the same with them all ; but worst of all with me." 

"Poor fellow!" said Roger; " I thought he looked terribly 
changed : shrunken, and his ruddiness of complexion altered." 

" Why, he hardly takes half the exercise he used to do, so it's 
no Vv'onder. He has turned away all the men off the new works, 
which used to be such an interest to him ; and because the roan cob 
stumbled with him one day, and nearly threw him, he won't ride it ; 
and yet he won't sell it and buy another, which would be the sensible 
plan ; so there are two old horses eating their heads oS, Avhile he is 
constantly talking about money and expense. And that brings mo to 
what I was going to say. I'm desperately hard up for money, and 
so I've been collecting my poems — weeding them well, you know — 
going over them quite critically, in fact ; and I want to know if you 
think Dcighton would publish them. You've a name in Cambridge, 
you know ; and I daresay he would look at them if you ofl'ered them 
to him." 

" I can but try," said Roger; "but I'm afraid you won't get 
much by them." 

" I don't expect much, I'm a new man, and must take my 
name. I should be content with a hundred. If I'd a hundred 
pounds I'd set myself to do something. I might keep myself and 
Aimee by my writings while I studied for the bar ; or, if the worst 
came to the worst, a hundred pounds would take us to Australia." 

"Australia! Why, Osborne, what could you do there? And 
leave my father ! I hope you'll never get your hundred pounds, if 
that's the use you're to make of it ! Why, you'd break the squire's 
heart." 



OSBORNE HAMLEY REVIEWS HIS POSITION. 265 

" It might have douc ouce," said Osborne, gloomilj', "but it 
would uot now. He looks at me askauce, and shies away from con- 
versation with me. Let me alone for noticing and feeling this kind 
of thing. It's this very susceptibility to outward things that gives 
me what faculty I have ; and it seems to me as if my bread, and 
my wife's too, were to depend upon it. You'll soon see for yourself 
the terms which I am on with my father ! " 

Roger did soon see. His father had slipped into a habit of 
silence at meal-times — a habit which Osborne, who y\-as troubled and 
anxious enough for his own part, had not striven to break. Father 
and sou sate together, and exchanged all the necessary speeches 
connected with the occasion civilly enough ; but it was a relief to 
them when their intercourse was over, and they separated — the father 
to brood over his sorrow and his disappointment, which were real 
and deep enough, and the injury he had received from his boy, 
which was exaggerated in his mind by his ignorance of the actual 
steps Osborne had taken to raise money. If the money-lenders had 
calculated the chances of his father's life or death in making their 
bargain, Osborne himself had thought only of how soon and hov? 
easily he could get the money requisite for clearing him from all 
imperious claims at Cambridge, and for enabling him to follow Aimee 
to her home in Alsace, and for the subsequent marriage. As yet, 
Roger had never seen his brother's wife ; indeed, he had only been 
taken into Osborne's full confidence after all was decided in which 
his advice could have been useful. And now, in the enforced sepa- 
ration, Osborne's whole thought, botli the poetical and practical sides 
of his mind, ran upon the little wife who was passing her lonely 
days in farmhouse lodgings, wondering when her bridegroom husband 
would come to her next. With such an engrossing subject, it was, 
perhaps, no wonder that he unconsciously neglected his father ; 
but it was none the less sad at the time, and to be regretted in 
its consequences. 

" I may come in and have a pipe with you, sir, mayn't I ? " said 
Roger, that first evening, pushing gently against the study-door, 
which his father held only half open. 

" You'll not like it," said the squire, still holding the door against 
him, but speaking in a relenting tone. "The tobacco I use isn't 
what young men like. Better go and have a cigar with Osborne." 

"No. I want to sit with you, and I can stand pretty strong 
tobacco." 



266 vnvES and daughtees. 

Roger pushed in, the resistance slowly giving way before him, 

" It will make yonr clothes smell. You'll have to borrow Osbonie's 
scents to sweeten yourself," said the squire, grimly, at the same 
time pushing a short smart amber-mouthed pipe to his son. 

" No ; I'll have a churchwarden. Why, father, do you think I'm 
a baby to put up with a doll's head like this ? " looking at the carving 
upon it. 

The squire was pleased in his heart, though ho did not choose to 
show it. He only said, " Osborne brought it mo when he came back 
from Germany. That's three years ago." And then for some time 
they smoked in silence. But the voluntaiy companionship of his sou 
was very soothing to the squire, though not a word might be said. 

The next speech he made showed the direction of his thoughts ; 
indeed his words were always a transparent medium through which 
the current might be seen. 

" A deal of a man's life comes and goes in three years — I've found 
that out ; and he pufi-ed away at his pipe again. Yf hilo Eoger was 
turning over in his mind what answer to make to this truism, the 
squire again stopped his smoking and spoke. 

" I remember when there was all that fuss about the Prince of 
Wales being made regent, I read somewhere — I daresay it was in a 
newspaper — tliat kings and their heirs-apparent were always on bad 
terms. 

Osborne was quite a little chap then : he used to go out riding with 
me on Y/hite Surrey; you won't remember the pony we called ^Vhite 
Surrey." 

" I remember it ; but I thought it a tall horse in those days." 

Ah ! that was because you were such a small lad, you know. 
I had seven horses in the stable then — not counting the farm-horses. 
I don't recollect having a care then, except — slu' was always delicate, 
you know. But vrhat a beautiful boy Osborne was ! He was always 
dressed in black velvet — it was a foppery, but it wasn't my doing, and 
it was ail right, I'm sure. He's a handsome fellov/ now, but the sun- 
shine has gone out of his face." 

" He's a good deal troubled about this money, and the anxiety he 
has given you," said Kogor, rather taking his brother's feelings for 
granted. 

" Not he," said the squire, taking the pipe out of his mouth, and 
hitting the bowl so sharply against the hob that it broke in pieces. 
^' There! But never mind! I say, not he, Boger ! He's none 



osror:xE nA:iiLEY reviews uis positiox. 2G7 

troubled about the mone^'. It's easy getting money from Jews if 
you're the eldest son, and the heii-. They just ask, ' How old is 
y-our father, and has he had a stroke, or a fit ? ' and it's settled out 
of hand, and then they come prowling about a place, and running 

down the timber and land Don't let us speak of him ; it's no 

good, Eoger. He and I are out of tune, and it seems to me as if 
only God Almighty could put us to rights. It's thinking of hov; he 
crieved her at last that makes me so bitter with him. And yet there's 
a deal of good in him ! and he's so quick and clever, if only he'd give 
his mind to things. Xovr, you were always slow, Roger — all your 
masters used to say so." 

Roger laughed a little — 

" Yes ; I'd many a nickname at school for my slox^Tiess," said he. 

" Never mind ! " said the squire, consolingly. " I'm sure I don't. 
If you were a clever fellow like Osborne yonder, you'd be all for 
caring for books and writing, and you'd perhaps find it as dull as ho 
does to keep company with a bumpkin-squire Jones like me. Yet, I 
daresay, they think a deal of you at Cambridge," said he, after a 
pause, " since you've got this fine wranglership ; I'd nearly forgotten 
that — the news came at such a miserable time." 

" Well, yes ! They're always proud of the senior wrangler of the 
jear up at Cambridge. Next year I must abdicate." 

The squire sat and gazed into the embers, still holding his useless 
pipe-stem. At last he said, ia a low voice, as if scarcely aware he 
had got a listener, — " I used to write to her when she was away in 
London, and tell her the home news. But no letter will reach her 
now ! Nothing reaches her ! " 

Roger started up. 

"Where's the tobacco-bo^, father? Let me fill j^ou another 
pipe ! " and when he had done so, he stooped over his father fend 
stroked his cheek. The squire shook his head. 

You've only just come home, lad. You don't know me, as I am 
now-a-days ! Ask Robinson — I won't have you asking Osborne, ho 
ought to keep it to himself — but any of the servants will tell you I'm 
not like the same man for getting into passions with them. I used 
to be reckoned a good master, but that is past now ! Osborne was 
once a little boy, and she was once alive — and I was once a good 
master — a good master — yes ! It's all past now." 

He took up his pipe, and began to smoke afresh, and Roger, after 
a silence of some minutes, began a long story about some Cambridge 



268 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

man's misadventure on the huntiug-fielcl, telling it with sucli humour 
that the squire was beguiled into hearty laughing. "When they rose 
to go to bed his father said to Roger, — 

" Well, we've had a pleasant evening — at least, I have. But 
perhaps you haven't ; for I'm but poor company now, I know." 

"I don't know when I've passed a happier evening, father," said 
Roger. And he spoke truly, though he did not trouble himself to 
find out the cause of his happiness. 



I 



( 2G9 ) 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

SIRS. GIBSON'S LITTLE DINNER. 

All this had taken phice before Roger's first meeting with Molly and 
Cynthia at Miss Browning's ; and the little dinner on the Friday at 
Mr. Gibson's, which followed in due sequence. 

Mrs. Gibson intended the Hamleys to find this dinner pleasant ; 
and they did. Mr. Gibson was fond of the two young men, both for 
their parent's sake and their own, for he had known them since boy- 
hood ; and to those whom he liked Mr. Gibson could be remarkably 
agreeable. Mrs. Gibson really gave them a welcome — and cordiality 
in a hostess is a very becoming mantle for any other deficiencies there 
may be. Cynthia and Molly looked their best, which was all the 
duty Mrs. Gibson absolutely required of them, as she was wilhng 
enough to take her full share in the conversation. Osborne fell to 
her lot, of course, and for some time he and she prattled on with 
all the ease of manner and commonplaceness of meaning which go 
far to make the " art of police conversation." Roger, who ought to 
have made himself agreeable to one or the other of the young ladies, 
was exceedingly interested in what Mr. Gibson was telling him of a 
paper on comparative osteology in some foreign journal of scieuie, 
which Lord Hollingford was in the habit of forwarding to his friend 
the country surgeon. Yet eveiy now and then while he listened he 
caught his attention wandering to the face of Cynthia, who was 
placed between his brother and Mr. Gibson. She was not particu- 
larly occupied with attending to anything that was going on ; her 
eyelids were carelessly dropped, as she crumbled her bread on the 
tablecloth, and her beautiful long eyelashes were seen on the clear 
tint of her oval cheek. She was thinking of something else ; IMolly 
was trying to understand with all her might. Suddenly C}'nthia 
looked up, and caught Roger's gaze of intent admiration too fully for 



270 WIVES AND DAUGHTEKS. 

her to bo uua,Vv-are that he was staring at her. She coh^urecl a httle ; 
Lut, after the first moment of rosy confusion at his evident admiration 
CI her, she flew to the attach, diverting his confusion at thus being 
caught, to the defence of himself from her accusation. 

" It is quite true ! " she said to him. " I was not attending : you 
see I don't know even the A B G of science. But, please, don't look 
so severely at me, even if I am a dunce ! " 

*' I didn't know — I didn't mean to look severely, I am sure," 
replied he, not knowing well what to say. 

"Cynthia is not a dunce either," said Mrs. Gibson, afraid lest 
her daughter's opinion of herself might be taken seriously. " But I 
have always obserA'ed that some people have a talent for one thing 
and some for another. Now Gynthia's talents are not for science and 
the severer studies. Do you remember, love, what trouble I had to 
teach you the use of the globes ? " 

"Yes; and I don't know longitude from latitude now; and I'm 
always puzzled as to which is perpendicular and which is horizontal." 

" Yet, I do assure you," her mother continued, rather addressing 
herself to Osborne, " that her memory for poetry is prodigious. I have 
heard her repeat the 'Prisoner of Ghillon' from beginning to end." 

"It would be rather a bore to have to hear her, I think," said 
Tilr. Gibson, smiling at Gynthia, who gave him back one of her bright 
looks of mutual understanding. 

" Ah, Mr. Gibson, I have found out before now that you have no 
soul for poetry ; and Molly there is your own child. She reads such 
deep books — all about facts and figures : she'll bo quite a blue- 
stocking by-and-by." 

"Mamma," said Molly, reddening, " j-ou think it was a deep 
book because there were the shapes of the different cells of bees in it ! 
but it was not at all deep. It v/as very interesting." 

" Never mind, Molly," said Osborne. " I stand up for blue- 
stockings." 

"And I object to the distinction implied in what you say," said 
Soger. "It was not deep, cn/o, it was very interesting. Now, a 
book may be both deep and interesting." 

" Oh, if you are going to chop logic and use Latin words, I think 
it is time for us to leave the room," said Mrs. Gibson. 

"Don't let us run away as if we were beaten, mamma," said 
Gynthia. " Though it may be logic, I, for one, can understand what 
Mr. Roger Hamley said just now ; and I read some of Molly's books ; 



MKS. GIBSON'S LITTLE DIXXER. 271 

anil whether it was deep or not I found it veiy interesting — more so 
than I should think the ' Prisoner of Chillon ' now-a-days. I've 
disphaced the Prisoner to make room for Johnnie Gilpin as my 
fixvourite poem." 

"How could you talk such nonsense, Cjoithia ! " said Mrs. 
Gibson, as the girls followed her upstairs. " You know you are not 
a dunce. It is all very well not to he a blue-stocking, because 
gentle-people don't like that kind of woman ; hut running yourself 
down, and contradicting all I said about your liking for Cyron, and 
poets and poetry — to Osborne Hamley of all men, too ! " 

Mrs. Gibson spoke quite crossly for her. 

" But, mamma," Cynthia replied, " I am either a dunce, or I am 
not. If I am, I did right to own it ; if I am not, he's a dunce if he 
doesn't find out I was joking." 

" Yv^ell," said Mrs. Gibson, a little puzzled by this speech, and 
wanting some elucidatory addition. 

" Only that if he's a dunce his opinion of me is worth nothing. 
So, any way, it doesn't signify." 

"You really bewilder me with your nonsense, child. Molly is 
worth twenty of you." 

" I quite agree with jon, mamma," said Cynthia, turning round 
to take Molly's hand. 

"Yes; but she ought not to be," said Mrs. Gibson, still irri- 
tated. " Think of the advantages j'ou've had." 

" Vm afraid I had rather be a dunce than a blue- stocking," said 
Molly ; for the term had a little annoyed her, and the annoyance was 
rankling still. 

" Hush ; here they are coming : I hear the dining-room door ! I 
never meant you were a blue-stocking, dear, so don't look vexed. — 
Cynthia, my love, where did you get those lovely flowers — anemones, 
are they ? They suit your complexion so exactly." 

" Come, Molly, don't look so grave and thoughtful," exclaimed 
Cynthia. " Don't you perceive mamma wants us to be smiling and 
amiable ? " 

Mr. Gibson had had to go out to his evening round ; and the 
v'oung men were all too glad to come up into the pretty dratving- 
room ; the bright little wood-fire ; the comfortable easy-chairs which, 
with so small a party, might be drawn round the hearth ; the good- 
natured hostess ; the pretty, agreeable girls. Roger sauntered up to 
the corner where Cynthia was standing, playing with a hand-screen. 



272 WIVES AND DAUGIITEES. 

"There is a charity ball iu Hollingford soon, isn't there?" 
asked he. 

"Yes ; on Easter Tuesday," she replied. 

" Are you going ? I suppose you are ? " 

" Yes ; mamma is going to take Molly and mc." 

" Y^'ou •will enjoy it very much — going together ? " 

For the first time during this little conversation she glanced up 
at him — ^real honest pleasure shining out of her eyes. 

" Yes ; going together will make the enjoyment of the thing. 
It -would be dull without her." 

" You are great friends, then'?" he asked. 

"I never thought I should like any one so much, — any girl I 
mean." 

She put in the final reservation in all simplicity of heart ; and in 
all simplicity did he understand it. He came ever so little nearer, 
and dropped his voice a little. 

" I was so anxious to know. I am so glad. I have often won- 
dered how you two were getting on." 

"Have 3'ou ? " said she, looking up again. " At Cambridge ? 
You must be very fond of Molly ! " 

"Yes, I am. She was with us so long; and at such a time! 
I look upon her almost as a sister." 

"And she is very fond of all of you. I seem to know you all 
from hearing her talk about you so much." 

" All of you ! " said she, laying an emphasis on ' all ' to show 
that it included the dead as well as the living. Eoger was silent for 
a minute or two. 

"I didn't know you, even by hearsay. So you mustn't wonder 
that I was a little afraid. But as soon as I saw you I knew how it 
must be ; and it was such a relief ! "' 

" Cynthia," said Mrs. Gibson, who thought that the younger son 
had had quite his share of low, confidential conversation, " come 
here, and sing that little French ballad to Mr. Osborne Hamley." 

" Which do you mean, mamma ? ' Tu t'en repentiras, Colin ?'" 

" Yes ; such a pretty, playful little warning to young men," said 
Mrs. Gibson, smiling up at Osborne. " The refrain is — 

Tu t'en repentiras, Colin, 

Tu t'en repentiras, 
Car si tu prcntls une fcmmc, Colin, 

Tu t'en repentiras. 




Tu t'en eepentikas, Colin." 



MRS. GIBSON'S LITTLE DINNER. 273 

The advice may apply very well when there is a French -wife in the 
case ; but not, I am sure, to an Englishman who is thinking of an 
English wife." 

This choico of a song was exceedingly nud-ajiropox, had Mrs. 
Gibson but known it. Osborne and Roger knowing that the wife of 
the former was a Frenchwoman, and, conscious of each other's 
knowledge, felt doubly awkward ; while Molly was as much confused 
as though she herself were secretly married. However, Cynthia 
carolled the saucy ditty out, and her mother smiled at it, in total 
ignorance of any application it might have. Osborne had instinctively 
gone to stand behind Cynthia, as she sate at the piano, so as to be 
ready to turn over the leaves of her music if she ref[uired it. He 
kept his hands in his pockets and his eyes fixed on her fingers ; his 
countenance clouded with gravity at all the merry quips which she so 
playfully sang, Roger looked grave as well, bi;t was much more at 
his ease than his brother ; indeed, he was half-amused by the awk- 
wardness of the situation. He caught Molly's troubled eyes and 
heightened colour, and he saw that she was feeling this contretemps 
more seriously than she needed to do. He moved to a seat by her, 
and half whispered, " Too late a warning, is it not ? " 

Molly looked up at him as he leant towards her, and replied in 
the same tone — " Oh, I am so sorry ! " 

" You need not be. He won't mind it long ; and a man muft 
take the consequences when he puts himself in a false position." 

Molly could not tell what to reply to this, so she hung her head 
and kept silence. Yet she could see that Roger did not change his 
attitude or remove his hand from the back of his chair, and, impelled 
by curiosity to find out the cause of his stillness, she looked up at 
him at length, and saw his gaze fixed on the two who were near the 
piano. Osborne was saying something eagerly to Cynthia, whbse 
grave eyes were upturned to him with soft intentness of expression, 
and her pretty mouth half-open, with a sort of impatience for him to 
cease speaking, that she might reply. 

" They arc talking about France," said Roger, in answer to 
Molly's unspoken question. " Osborne knows it well, and Miss 
Ivirkpatrick has been at school there, you know. It sounds very 
interesting ; shall we go nearer and hear what they are saying ? " 

It was all very well to ask this civilly, but Molly thought it would 
have been better to W'ait for her answer. Instead of waiting, 
however, Roger went to the piano, and, leaning on it, appeared to 
Vol. I. 18 



274 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

join in the light merry talk, while he feasted his eyes as much as he 
dared by looking at Cynthia. Molly suddenly felt as if she could 
scarcely keep from crying — a minute ago he had been so near to her, 
and talking so pleasantly and confidentially ; and now he almost 
seemed as if he had forgotten her existence. She thought that all 
this was v/rong ; and she exaggerated its wrongness to herself ; 
"mean," and "envious of Cynthia," and "ill-natured," and 
" selfish," were the terms she kept applying to herself; but it did 
no good, she was just as naughty at the last as at the first. 

Mrs. Gibson broke into the state of things which Molly thought 
was to endure for ever. Her work had been intricate up to this 
time, and had required a great deal of counting ; so she had had no 
time to attend to her duties, one of which she always took to be to 
show herself to the world as an impartial stepmother. Cynthia had 
played and sung, and now she must give Molly her turn of exhibition. 
Cynthia's singing and playing was light and graceful, but anything 
but correct ; but she herself was so charming, that it was ' only 
fanatics for music who cared for false chords and omitted notes. 
Molly, on the contrar}', had an excellent ear, if she had ever been 
well taught; and both from inclination and conscientious perse- 
verance of disposition, she would go over an incorrect passage for 
twenty times. But she was very shy of playing in company ; and 
when forced to do it, she went through her performance heavily, and 
hated her handiwork more than any one. 

" Now, you must play a little, Molly," said Mrs. Gibson ; " play 
us that beautiful piece of Kalkbrcnner's, my dear." 

Molly looked up at her stepmother with beseeching eyes ; but it 
only brought out another form of request, still more like a command. 

"Go at once, my dear. You may not play it quite rightly ; and 
I know you are very nervous ; but you're quite amongst friends." 

So there was a disturbance made in the little group at the piano, 
and Molly sate down to her martyrdom. 

"Please, go away!" said she to Osborne, who was standing 
behind her ready to turn over. " I can quite well do it for myself. 
And oh ! if you would but talk ! " 

Osborne remained where he was in spite of her appeal, and gave 
her what little approval she got ; for Mrs. Gibson, exhausted by her 
previous labour of counting her stitches, fell asleep in her comfort- 
able sofa-corner near the fire ; and Roger, who began at first to talk 
a little in compliance with Molly's request, found his tete-a-tete with 



MKS. GIBSON'S LITTLE DINNER. 275 

Cynthia so agreeable, that Molly lost hor place several times in 
trying to catch a sudcleu glimpse of Cynthia sitting at her work, and 
Roger by her, intent on catching her low replies to what he was 
saying. 

" There, now I've done ! " said Molly, standing up quickly as 
soon as she had finished the eighteen dreary pages; " and I think 
I will never sit down to play again ! " 

Osborne laughed at her vehemence. Cynthia began to take 
some part in what was being said, and thus made the conversation 
general. Mrs. Gibson wakened up gracefully, as was her way of 
doing all things, and slid into the subjects they were talking about so 
easily, that she almost succeeded in making them believe she had 
never been asleep at all. 



18—2 



( 276 ) 



CHAPTER XXV. 
HOLLINGFOED IN A BUSTLE. 

All Hollingford felt as if there was a great deal to be done before 
Easter this year. There was Easter proper, which always required 
new clothing of some hind, for fear of certain consequences from 
little birds, who were supposed to resent the impiety of those who do 
not wear some new article of dress on Easter-day. And most ladies 
considered it wiser that the little birds should see the new article for 
themselves, and not have to take it upon trust, as they would have to 
do if it were merely a pocket-handkerchief, or a petticoat, or any 
article of under-clothing. So piety demanded a new bonnet, or a 
new gown ; and was barely satisfied with an Easter pair of gloves. 
Miss Rose was generally very busy just before Easter in Hollingford. 
Then this year there was the charity ball. Ashcombe, Hollingford, 
and Coreham were three neighbouring towns, of about the same 
number of population, lying at the three equidistant corners of a 
triangle. In imitation of greater cities with their festivals, these 
three towns had agreed to have an annual ball for the benefit of the 
county hospital to be held in turn at each place; and Hollingford was 
to be the place this year. 

It was a fi.ne time for hospitality, and every house of any preten- 
sion was as full as it could hold, and %s were engaged long months 
before. 

If Mrs. Gibson could have asked Osborne, or in default, Roger 
Hamlcy to go to the ball Avith them and to sleep at their house, — or 
if, indeed, she could have picked up any stray scion of a " county 
family" to whom such an ofler would have been a convenience, she 
would have restored her own dressing-room to its former use as the 
spare-room, with pleasure. But she did not think it was worth her 
while to put herself out for any of the humdrum and ill- dressed women 



HOLLINGFORD IN A BUSTLE. 277 

who liacl bcea her former acquaintances at Ashcombe. For Mr. Preston 
it might have been worth while to give up her room, consiclcriug him 
in the light of a handsome ami prosperous j'oung man, ami a good 
dancer besides. But there were more lights in which he was to be 
viewed. Mr. Gibson, who really wanted to return the hospitality 
sho'wn to him by Mr. Preston at the time of his marriage, had yet an 
instinctive distaste to the man, which no wish of freeing himself from 
obligation, nor even the more worthy feehng of hospitality, could 
overcome. Mrs. Gibson had some old grudges of her own against 
him, but she was not one to retain angry feelings, or be very active 
in her retahation ; she was afraid of Mr. Preston, and admired him 
at the same time. It was awkward too — so she said — to go into a 
ball-room without any gentleman at all, and Mr. Gibson was so 
uncertain ! On the whole — partly for this last-given reason, and 
partly because conciliation was the best policy, Mrs. Gibson vras 
slightly in favour of inviting Mr. Preston to be their guest. But as 
soon as Cynthia heard the question discussed — or rather, as soon as 
she heard it discussed in Mr. Gibson's absence, she said that if 
Mr. Preston came to be their visitor on the occasion, she for one 
would not go to the ball at all. She did not speak with vehemence 
or in anger ; but with such quiet resolution that Molly looked up in 
suq)rise. She saw that Cynthia was keeping her eyes fixed on her 
work, and that she had no intention of meeting any one's gaze, or 
giving any further explanation. Mrs. Gibson, too, looked perplexed, 
and once or twice seemed on the point of asking some question ; but 
she was not angry as Molly had fully expected. She watched Cynthia 
furtively and in silence for a minute or two, and then said that, after 
all, she could not conveniently give up her dressing-room ; and, alto- 
gether, they had better say no more about it. So no stranger was 
invited to stay at Mr. Gibson's at the time of the ball ; but Mrs. Gibson 
openly spoke of her regi-et at the unavoidable inhospitality, and 
hoped that they might be able to build an addition to their house 
before the next triennial HoUingford ball. 

Another cause of unusual bustle at HoUingford this Easter was 
the expected return of the family to the Towers, after their unusually 
long absence. Mr. Sheepshanks might be seen trotting up and do\Mi 
on his stout old cob, speaking to attentive masons, plasterers, and 
glaziers about putting everything — on the outside at least— about the 
cottages belonging to " my lord," in perfect repau". Lord Cumnor 
■owned the greater part of the town ; and those who lived under other 



278 ^VIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

landlords, or in houses of their own, were stirred up by the dread of 
contrast to do up their dwellings. So the ladders of whitewashers 
and painters were sadly in the way of the ladies tripping daintily 
along to make their purchases, and holding their gowns up in a 
Lunch behind, after a fashion quite gone out in these days. The 
housekeeper and steward from the Towers might also be seen coming 
in to give orders at the various shops ; and stopping here and there 
at those kept by favourites, to avail themselves of the eagerly- 
tendered refreshments. 

Lady Harriet came to call on her old governess the day after the 
arrival of the family at the Towers. IMolly and Cjmthia were out 
walking when she came — doing some errands for Mrs. Gibson, who 
had a secret idea that Lady Harriet would call at the particular time 
she did, and had a not ujicommon wish to talk to her ladyship 
without the corrective presence of any member of her own family. 

]Mrs. Gibson did not give Molly the message of remembrance 
that Lady Harriet had left for her ; but she imparted various pieces 
of news relating to the Towers with great animation and interest. The 
Duchess of Menteith and her daughter, Lady Alice, were coming to the 
Towers; would be there the day of the ball ; would come to the ball ; 
and the Menteith diamonds were famous. That was piece of news the 
first. The second was that ever so many gentlemen were coming to the 
Towers — some English, some French. This piece of news would have 
come first in order of importance had there been much probability 
of their being dancing men, and, as such, possible partners at the 
coming ball. But Lady Harriet had spoken of them as Lord Hol- 
iingford's friends, useless scientific men in all probability. Then, 
finally, Mvs. Gibson was to go to the Towers next day to lunch ; 
Lady Cumnor had written a little note by Lady Harriet to beg her 
to come ; if Mrs. Gibson could manage to find her way to the Towers, 
one of the carriages in use should bring her back to her own home 
in the course of the afternoon. 

" The dear countess ! " said Mrs. Gibson, with soft aflection. It 
was a soliloquy, uttered after a minute's pause, at the end of all this 
information. 

And all the rest of that day her conversation had an aristocratic 
perfume hanging about it. One of the few books she had brought 
with her into Mr. Gibson's house was bound in pink, and in it she 
studied, " Menteith, Duke of, Adolphus George," &c., &c., till she 
was fully up in all the duchess's connections, and probable interests. 



HOLLINGFORD IN A BUSTLE. 279 

Mr. Gibson made his mouth up into a tlroll whistio "n-hen he came 
home at night, and found himself in a Towers' atmosphere. Molly 
saw the shade of annoj'ance through the drolleiy ; she was beginning 
to see it ofteuer than she liked, not that she reasoned upon it, or 
that she consciously traced the annoyance to its source ; but she 
could not help feeling uneasy in herself when she knew that her 
father was in the least put out. 

Of course a fly was ordered for Mrs. Gibson. In the early after- 
noon she came home. If she had been disappointed in her intemew 
•with the countess she never told her woe, nor revealed the fact that 
when she first arrived at the Towers she had to wait for an hour in 
Lady Cumnor's morning-room, uncheered by any companionship save 
that of her old friend, Mrs. Bradley, till suddenly. Lady Harriet 
coming in, she exclaimed. "Why, Clare! you dear woman! are 
you here all alone? Does mamma know?" And, after a little 
more affectionate conversation, she rushed to find her ladyship, who 
was perfectly aware of the fact, but too deep in giving the duchess the 
benefit of her wisdom and experience in trousseaux to be at all mindful 
of the length of time Mrs. Gibson had been passing in patient soli- 
tude. At lunch Mrs. Gibson was secretly hurt by my lord's supposinfy 
it^ to be her dinner, and calling out his urgent hospitality from the 
very bottom of the table, giving as a reason for it, that she must 
remember it was her dinner. In vaiu she piped out in her soft, high 
voice, " Oh, my lord ! I never eat meat in the middle of the day ; I 
can hardly eat anything at lunch." Her voice was lost, and the 
duchess might go away with the idea that the Hollingford doctor's 
wife dined early ; that is to say, if her grace ever condescended to 
have any idea on the subject at all ; which presupposes that she 
was cognizant of the fact of there being a doctor at Hollingford, and 
that he had a Vvife, and that his wife was the pretty, faded, elegant- 
looking woman, sending away her plate of uutasted food — food which 
she longed to eat, for she was really desperately hungry after her 
drive and her solitude. 

And then after lunch there did come a tete-a-tete with Lady 
Cumnor, which was conducted after this wise : — 

" Well, Clare ! I am really glad to see you. I once thought I 
should never get back to the Towers, but here I am ! There was such 
a clever man at Bath — a Doctor Snape — he cured me at last — quite 
set me up. I really think if ever I am ill again I shall send for him : 
it is such a thing to find a really clever medical man. Oh, by the 



280 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

way, I always forget you've marrietl Mr. Gibson — of course he is very 
clever, and all that. (The carriage to the door in ten minutes, 
Brown, and desire Bradley to bring my things down.) What was I 
asking you ? Oh ! how do you get on with the stepdaughter ? She 
seemed to me to bo a young lady with a pretty stubborn will of her 
own. I put a letter for the post down somewhere, and I cannot 
think where ; do help me look for it, there's a good woman. Just 
run to my room, and see if Brown can find it, for it is of great con- 
sequence. 

Oil went Mrs. Gibson, rather unwillingly ; for there were several 
things she wanted to speak about, and she had not heard half of what 
she had expected to learn of the family gossip. But all chance was 
gone ; for when she came back from her fruitless errand. Lady 
Cumnor and the duchess were in full talk, the former with the missing 
letter in her hand, which she was using something like a baton to 
enforce her words. 

" Every iota from Paris ! Every i-o-ta ! " 

Lady Cumnor was too much of a lady not to apologize for useless 
trouble, but they were nearly the last words she spoke to Mrs. Gibson, 
for she had to go out and drive with the duchess ; and the brougham 
to take " Clare " (as she persisted in calling Mrs. Gibson) back to 
Holiingford followed the carriage to the door. Lady Harriet came 
away from her entourage of young men and young ladies, all prepared 
for some walking expedition, to wish Mrs. Gibson good-by. 

" We shall see you at the ball," she said. ** You'll be there with 
your two girls, of course, and I must have a little talk with you 
there ; with all these visitors in the house, it has been impossible to 
see anything of you to-day, you know." 

Such were the facts, but rose-colour was the medium through 
which they were seen by Mrs. Gibson's household listeners on her 
return. 

'• There are many visitors staying at the Towers — oh, yes ! a 
great many : the duchess and Lady Alice, and Mr. and Mrs. Grey, 
and Lord Albert Monson and his sister, and my old friend Captain 
James of the Blues — many more, in fact. But of course I preferred 
going to Lady Cumnor's own room, where I could see her and Lady 
Harriet quietly, and where we were not disturbed by the bustle 
downstairs. Of course we were obliged to go down to lunch, and 
then I saw my old friends, and renewed pleasant acquaintances. But 
I really could hardly get any connected conversation with any one. 



HOLLINGFORD IN A BUSTLE. 281 

Lord Cumnor seemed so deliglited to see me there again : tliough 
there were six or seven between ns, he was always interrupting with 
some civil or kind speech especially addressed to me. And after 
lunch Lady Cumnor asked me all sorts of questions about my new 
life with as much interest as if I had been her daughter. To be 
sure, when the duchess came in we had to leave off, and talk about 
the trousseau she is preparing for Lady Alice. Lady Harriet made 
such a point of our meeting at the ball ; she is euch a good, affec- 
tionate creature, is Lady Harriet ! " 

This last was said in a tone of meditative appreciation. 

The afternoon of the day on which the ball was to take place, a 
servant rode over from Hamley with two lovely nosegays, " with the 
Mr. Hamleys' compliments to Miss Gibson and Miss Kirkpatrick." 
Cynthia was the first to receive them. She came dancing into the 
drawing-room, flourishing the flowers about in either hand, and 
danced up to Molly, who was trying to settle to her reading, by way 
of helping on the time till the evening came. 

" Look, Molly, look ! Here are bouquets for us ! Long life to 
the givers !" 

"Who are they from?" asked Molly, taking hold of one, and 
examining it with tender delight at its beauty. 

" Who from? Why, the two paragons of Hamleys, to be sure! 
Isn't it a pretty attention ? " 

" How kind of them ! " said Molly. 

" I'm sure it is Osborne who thought of it. He has been so 
much abroad, where it is such a common compliment to send bouquets 
to young ladies." 

" I don't see why you should think it is Osborne's thought ! " 
said Molly, reddening a little. " Mr. Roger Hamley used to 
gather nosegays constantly for his mother, and sometimes for 
me." 

" W^ell, never mind whose thought it was, or who gathered them; 
we've got the flowers, and that's enough. Molly, I'm sure these 
red flowers will just match your coral necklace and bracelets," said 
Cynthia, pulling out some camellias, then a rare kind of flower. 

" Oh, please, don't!" exclaimed Molly. "Don't you see how 
carefully the colours are arranged — they have taken such pains ; 
please, don't." 

" Nonsense ! " said Cynthia, continuing to pull them out ; " see, 
here are quite enough. I'll make you a little coronet of them — 



282 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

sewn on black velvet, •which will never be seen — just as they do in 
France ! " 

" Oh, I am so sorry ! It is quite spoilt," said Molly. 

" Never mind ! I'll take this spoilt bouquet ; I can make it up 
again just as prettily as ever ; and you shall have this, which has 
never been touched." Cynthia went on arranging the crimson buds 
and flowers to her taste. Molly said nothing, but kept watching 
Cynthia's nimble fingers tying up the wreath. 

"There," said Cynthia, at last, "when that is sewn on black 
velvet, to keep the flowers from dying, you'll see how pretty it will 
look. And there are enough red flowers in this untouched nosegay 
to carry out the idea ! " 

" Thank you " (very slowly). " But sha'n't you mind having 
only the wrecks of the other ? " 

" Not I ; red flowers would not go with my pink dress." 

" But — I daresay they arranged each nosegay so carefully ! " 

" Perhaps they did. But I never would allow sentiment to in- 
terfere with my choice of colours ; and pink does tie one down. 
Now 3'ou, in white musliu, just tipped with crimson, like a daisy, 
may wear anything." 

Cynthia took the utmost pains in dressing Molly, leaving the 
clever housemaid to her mother's exclusive service. Mrs. Gibson 
was more anxious about her attire than was either of the girls ; it 
had given her occasion for deep thought and not a few sighs. Her 
deliberation had ended in her wearing her pearl-grey satin wedding- 
gown, with a profusion of lace, and white and coloured lilacs. Cyn- 
thia was the one who took the aflair most lightly. Molly looked 
upon the ceremony of dressing for a first ball as rather a serious 
ceremony ; certainly as an anxious proceeding. Cynthia was almost 
as anxious as herself; only Molly wanted her appearance to be 
correct and unnoticed ; and Cynthia was desirous of setting ofi* 
Molly's rather peculiar charms — her cream-coloured skin, her pro- 
fusion of curly black hair, her beautiful long-shaped eyes, with their 
shy, loving expression. Cynthia took up so much time in dressing 
Molly to her mind, that she herself had to perform her toilette in a 
hurry. BloUy, ready dressed, sate on a low chair in Cynthia's room, 
watching the pretty creature's rapid movements, as she stood in her 
petticoat before the glass, doing up her hair, with quick certainty of 
eflect. At length, Molly heaved a long sigh, and said, — 

" I should like to be pretty ! " 



IIOLLINGFORD IN A BUSTLE. 283 

'* Why, Molly," said Cyntliia, turning round with an exclamation 
on the tip of her tongue ; but -wlaen she caught the innocent, -wistful 
look on Molly's face, she instinctively checked what she was going to 
say, and, half-smiling to her o^vn reflection in the glass, she said, — 
" The French girls would tell you, to believe that you were pretty 
•would make you so." 

Molly paused before replying, — 

" I suppose they would mean that if you knew you were pretty, 
you would never think about your looks ; you would bo so certain of 
being liked, and that it is caring " 

" Listen ! that's eight o'clock striking. Don't trouble yourself 
with trying to interpret a French girl's meaning, but help me on 
with my frock, there's a dear one." 

The two girls were dressed, and standing over the fire waiting for 
the carriage in Cynthia's room, when Maria (Betty's successor) came 
hurrj-ing into the room. Maria had been officiating as maid to 
Mrs. Gibson, but she had had intervals of leisure, in which she had 
rushed upstairs, and, under the pretence of offering her seiwices, had 
seen the young ladies dresses, and the sight of so many nice clothes 
had sent her into a state of excitement which made her think nothing 
of rushing upstairs for the twentieth time, with a nosegay still more 
beautiful than the two previous ones. 

"Here, Miss Ivirkpatrick ! No, it's not for you, miss!" as 
Molly, being nearer to the door, offered to take it and pass it to 
■Cynthia. "It's for Miss Kirkpatrick ; and there's a note for her 
besides ! " 

Cynthia said nothing, but took the note and the flowers. Sho 
held the note so that Molly could read it at the same time she did. 

" I send you some flowers ; and you must allow me to claim t^ie 
first dance after nine o'clock, before which time I fear I cannot 
arrive. 

"C. P." 

" Who is it ? " asked Molly. 

Cynthia looked extremely irritated, indignant, pei^jlexed — what 
was it turned her cheek so pale, and made her eyes so full of fire '? 

" It is Mr. Preston," said she, in aiiswer to Molly. " I shall 
not dance with him ; and here go his flowers — " 

Into the xery middle of the embers, vrhich she immediately stirred 
down upon the beautiful shining petals as if she wished to annihilate 



284 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

tbem as soon as possible. Her voice had never been raised ; it was 
as sweet as usual ; nor, though her movements were prompt enough, 
were they hasty or violent. 

" Oh ! " said Molly, " those beautiful flowers ! We might have 
put them in water." 

" No," said Cynthia ; " it's best to destroy them. We don't 
want them ; and I can't bear 'to bo reminded of that man." 

" It was an impertinent familiar note," said Molly. " What 
right had he to express himself in that way — no beginning, no end, 
and only initials ! Did you know him well when you were at Ash- 
combe, Cynthia?" 

" Oh, don't let us think any more about him," replied Cj-nthia. 
"It is quite enough to spoil any pleasure at the ball to think that he 
will be there. But I hope I shall get engaged before he comes, so 
that I can't dance with him — and don't you, cither ! " 

" There ! they are calling for us," exclaimed Molly, and with 
quick stop, yet careful of then* draperies, they made their way down- 
stairs to the place where Mr. and Mrs. Gibson awaited them. Yes ; 
Mr. Gibson was going, — even if he had to leave them afterwards to 
attend to any professional call. And Molly suddenly began to admire 
her father as a handsome man, w}ien she saw him now, in full even- 
ing attire. Mrs. Gibson, too — how pretty she was ! In short, it 
was true that no better-looking a party than these four people entered 
the HoUingford ball-room that evening. 



( 285 ) 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

A CHARITY BALL. 

At the present time there are few people at a public ball besides the 
(lancers and their chaperones, or relations in some degree interested 
in them. But in the days when Molly and Cynthia were young — 
before railroads were, and before their consequences, the excursion- 
trains, which take every one up to London noAV-a-days, there to see 
their fill of gay crowds and fine dresses — to go to an annual charity- 
ball, even though all thought of dancing had passed by years ago, 
and without any of the responsibilities of a chaperone, v/as a very 
allowable and favourite piece of dissipation to all the kindly old 
maids who thronged the country towns of England. They aired 
their old lace and their best dresses ; they saw the aristocratic mag- 
nates of the country side ; they gossipped with their coevals, and 
speculated on the romances of the young around them in a curious 
yet friendly spirit. The Miss Brownings would have thought them- 
selves sadly defrauded of the gayest event of the year, if anything 
had prevented their attending the charity ball, and Miss Bro^\•uiug 
would have been indignant, Miss Phoebe aggrieved, had they not 
been asked to Ashcombe and Coreham, by friends at each place, who 
had, like them, gone through the dancing-stage of life some five-and- 
twenty years before, but who liked still to haunt the scenes of their 
former enjoyment, and see a younger generation dance on " regard- 
less of their doom." They had come in one of the two sedan-chairs 
that yet lingered in use at Hollingford ; such a night as this brought 
a regular harvest of gains to the two old men who, in what was 
called the " town's livery," trotted backwards and forwards with 
their many loads of ladies and finery. There were some postchaiscs, 
and some " flys," but after mature deliberation Miss Browning had 
decided to keep to the more comfortable custom of the sedau-chaii- ; 



286 WIVES AXD DAUGUTERS. 

*' wMcli," as she said to Miss Piper, one of lier visitors, " came into 
the parlour, and got full of the warm air, and nipped you up, and 
carried you tight and cosy into another warm room, where you could 
walk out without having to show your legs by going up steps, or 
down steps." Of course only one could go at a time ; but hero 
again a little of Miss Browning's good management arranged every- 
thing so very nicely, as Miss Hornhlower (their other visitor) re- 
marked. She went first, and remained in the warm cloak-room 
until her hostess followed ; and then the two ladies went arm-in-arm 
into the ball-room, finding out convenient seats whence they could 
watch the arrivals and speak to their passing friends, until Miss 
Phoebe and Miss Piper entered, and came to take possession of the 
seats reserved for them by Miss Browning's care. These two 
younger ladies came in, also arm-in-arm, but with a certain timid 
flurry in look and movement very different from the composed 
dignity of their seniors (by two or three years). When all four 
were once more assembled together, they took breath, and began to 
converse. 

" Upon my word, I really do think this is a better room than our 
Ashcombe Court-house ! " 

"And how prettily it is decorated!" piped out Miss Piper. 
" How well the roses are made ! But you all have such a taste at 
Hollingford." 

"There's Mrs. Dempster," cried Miss Hornhlower; "she said 
she and her two daughters were asked to stay at Mr. Sheepshanks'. 
Mr. Preston was to be there, too ; but I suppose they could not all 
come at once. Look ! and there is young Pioscoe, our nev/ doctor. 
I declare it seems as if all Ashcombo were here. Mr. Eoscoe I 
Mr. Roscoe ! come here and let me introduce you to Miss Browning, 
the friend we are staying with. We think very highly of our young 
doctor, I can assure you, Miss Browning." 

Mr. Roscoe bowed, and simpered at hearing his own praises. 
But Miss Browning had no notion of having any doctor praised, who 
had come to settle on the very verge of Mr. Gibson's practice, so she 
said to Miss Hornhlower, — 

" You must be glad, I am sure, to have somebody you can call 
in, if you are in any sudden hurry, or for things that are too trifling 
to trouble Mr. Gibson about ; and I should think Mr. Pioscoe would 
feel it a great advantage to profit, as he will naturally have the 
opportunity of doing, by witnessing Mr. Gibson's skill ! " 



A CHARITY BALL. 287 

Probably IMr. Eoscoo would have felt more aggrieved by this 
speech than he really was, if his attention had not been called off 
just then by the entrance of the verj' Mr, Gibson who was being 
spoken of. Almost before Miss Browning had ended her severe and 
depreciatory remarks, he had asked his friend Miss Hornblovrer, — 

" Who is that lovely girl in pink, just come in ? " 

" Why, that's Cynthia Kirkpatrick ! " said Miss Hornblower, 
taking up a ponderous gold eyeglass to make sure of her fact. " How 
she has grown ! To be sure it is two or three years since she left 
Ashcombe — she was very pretty then — people did say Mr. Preston 
admired her veiy much ; but she was so young ! " 

" Can you introduce me ? " asked the impatient j'oung surgeon. 
*' I should like to ask her to dance." 

When Miss Hornblower returned from her greeting to her former 
acquaintance, Mrs. Gibson, and had [acomplished the introduction 
which Mr. Ptoscoe had requested, she began her little confidences to 
Miss Browning. 

" Well, to be sure ! How condescending we are ! I remember 
the time when 'Mis. Kirkpatrick wore old black silks, and was 
thankful and civil as became her place as a schoolmistress, and as 
having to earn her bread. And now she is in a satin ; and she 
speaks to me as if she just could recollect who I was, if she tried 
very hard ! It isn't so long ago since Mrs. Dempster came to consult 
me as to whether Mrs. Kirkpatrick would be offended, if she sent 
her a new breadth for her lilac silk -gown, in place of one that had 
been spoilt by Mrs. Dempster's servant spilling the coffee over it 
the night before ; and she took it and was thankful, for all she's 
dressed in pearl-grey satin now ! And she would have been glad 
enough to marry Mr. Preston in those days." 

" I thought you said he admired her daughter," put in Miss 
Bro^\'ning to her irritated friend. 

*' Well ! perhaps I did, and perhaps it was so ; I am sure I can't 
tell ; he was a great deal at the house. Miss Dixon keeps a school 
in the same house now, and I am sure she does it a gi-eat deal 
better." 

" The earl and the countess are very fond of Mrs. Gibson," said 
Miss Browning, " I know, for Lady Harriet told us when she came 
to drink tea with us last autumn ; and they desired Mr, Preston to 
be very attentive to her when she lived at Ashcombe." 

" For goodness' sake don't go and repeat ^hat I've been saying 



288 ^VIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

about Mr. Preston and Mrs. Ivirkpatrick to lier ladyship. One may 
be mistaken, and you know I only said * people talked about it.' " 

Miss Hornblower was evidently alarmed lest her gossip should 
be repeated to the Lady Harriet, who appeared to be on such an 
intimate footing with her Holliugford friends. Nor did Miss Browning 
dissipate the illusion. Lady Harriet had drunk tea with them, and 
might do it again ; and, at any rate, the little fright she had put 
her friend into was not a bad return for that praise of Mr. Roscoe, 
which had offended Miss Browning's loyalty to Mr. Gibson. 

Meanwhile Miss Piper and Miss Pho3be, who had not the character 
of csprit-forts to maintain, talked of the dresses of the people present, 
beginning by complimenting each other. 

" What a lovely turban you have got on, Miss Piper, if I may be 
allowed to say so : so becoming to your complexion ! " 

" Do you think so ?" said Miss Piper, with ill-concealed gratifi- 
cation ; it was something to have a " complexion " at forty-five. " I 
got it at Brown's, at Somertou, for this veiy ball. I thought I must 
have something to set oft' my gown, which isn't quite so new as it 
once was ; and I have no handsome jewellery like you " — looking 
with admiring eyes at a large miniature set round with pearls, which 
served as a shield to Miss Phoebe's breast. 

" It is handsome," that lady replied. "It is a likeness of my 
dear mother ; Dorothy has got my father on. The miniatures were 
both taken at the same time ; and just about then my uncle died and 
left us each a legacy of fifty pounds, which we agreed to spend on 
the setting of our miniatures. But because they are so valuable 
Dorothy always keeps them locked up with the best silver, and hides 
the box somewhere; she never will tell me where, because she says 
I've such weak nerves, and that if a burglar, with a loaded pistol 
at my head, were to ask me where we kept our plate and jewels, I 
should bo sure to tell him; and she says, for her part, she would 
never think of revealing under any circumstances. (I'm sure I 
hope she won't be tried.) But that's the reason I don't wear it 
often ; it's only the second time I've had it on ; and I can't even get 
at it, and look at it, which I should like to do. I shouldn't have 
had it on to-night, but that Dorothy gave it out to me, saying it was 
but a proper compliment to pay to the Duchess of Mentcith, v.'ho is 
to be here in her diamonds." 

" Dcar-ah-me ! Is she really! Do you know I never saw a 
duchess before." And Miss Piper drew herself up and craned her 



A CIIARITY BALL. 289 

ueck, as if resolved to " behave herself projDerly," as slio had been 
taught to do at boarding-school thirty years before, in the presence 
of " her grace." By-aud-by she said to Phabe, with a sudden jerk 
out of position, — "Look, look! that's our Mr. Cholmley, the 
magistrate (he was the great man of Coreham), and that's Mrs. 
Cholmley in red satin, and Mr. George and Mr. Hariy from Oxford, 
I do declare; and Miss Cholmley, and pretty Miss Sophy. I should 
like to go and speak to them, but then its so formidable crossing a 
room without a gentleman. And there is Coxe the butcher and his 
wife ! Why all Coreham seems to be here ! And how Mrs. Coxe can 
aflbrd such a gown I can't make out for one, for I know Coxe had some 
difficulty in paying for the last sheep he bought of my brother." 

Just at this moment the band, consisting of two violins, a harp, 
and an occasional clarionet, having finished their tuning, and brought 
themselves as nearly into accord as was possible, struck up a brisk 
country-dance, and partners quickly took their places. Mrs. Gibson 
was secretly a little annoyed at Cynthia's being one of those to stand 
up in this early dance, the performers in which w^ere principally the 
punctual plebeians of Hollingford, who, _when a ball was fixed to 
begin at eight, had no notion of being later, and so losing part of the 
amusement for which they have payed their money. She imparted 
some of her feelings to Molly, sitting by her, longing to dance, and 
beating time to the spirited music with one of her pretty little feet. 

" Your dear papa is always so very punctual ! To-night it seems 
almost a pity, for we really are here before there is any one come 
that we know." 

" Oh ! I see so many people here that I know. There are 
Mr. and Mrs. Smeaton, and that nice good-tempered daughter." 

" Oh! booksellers and butchers if you will." 

" Papa has found a great many friends to talk to." * 

" Patients, my dear — hardly friends. There are some nice- 
looking people here," catching her eye on the Cholmleys; "but I 
daresay they have driven over from the neighbourhood of Ashcombe 
or Coreham, and have hardly calculated how soon they would get 
here. I wonder when the Towers' party will come. Ah ! there's 
Mr. Ashtou, and Mr. Preston. Come, the room is beginning to fill." 

So it was, for this was to be a very good ball, people said ; and a 

large party from the Towers was coming, and a duchess in diamonds 

among the number. Every great house in the district was expected 

to be full of guests on these occasions ; but at this early hour, the 

Vol. I. 19 



290 'WIVES AND DAUGHTEKS. 

to'mispeople Lad the floor almost entirely to tliemselves ; tlie county 
magnates came tlropping in later ; and chiefest among them all 
was the lord-lieutenaut from the Towers. But to-night they were 
unusually late, and the aristocratic ozone being absent from the 
atmosphere, there was a flatness about the dancing of all those wha 
considered themselves aboA'c the plebeian ranks of the tradespeople. 
They, however, enjoyed themselves thoroughly, and sprang and 
"bounded till their eyes sparkled and their cheeks glowed with 
exercise and excitement. Some of the more prudent parents, 
mindful of the next day's duties, began to consider at what hour 
they ought to go home ; but with all there v/as an expressed or un- 
expressed curiosity to see the duchess and her diamonds ; for the 
Meuteith diamonds were famous in higher circles than that now 
assembled ; and their fame had trickled down to it through the 
medium of ladies'-maids and housekeepers. Mr. Gibson had had to 
leave the ball-room for a time, as he had anticipated, but he was to 
return to his wife as soon as his duties were accomplished ; and, in 
his absence, Mrs. Gibson kept herself a little aloof from the Miss 
Brownings and those of her acquaintance who would willingly have 
entered into conversation with her, with the view of attaching herself 
to the skirts of the Towers' paiiy, when they should make their 
appearance. If Cynthia would not be so veiy ready in engaging 
herself to every possible partner who asked her to dance, there were 
sure to be young men staying at the Tov\'ers who would be on the 
look-out for pretty girls : and who could tell to what a dance might 
lead ? Molly, too, though not so good a dancer as Cynthia, and, 
from her timidity, less graceful and easy, was becoming engaged 
pretty deeply ; and, it must be confessed, she was longing to dance 
every dance, no matter with whom. Even she might not be avail- 
able for the more aristocratic partners Mrs. Gibson anticipated. 
She v/as feeling veiT much annoyed with the whole proceedings of 
the evening when she was aware of some one standing by her ; and, 
turning a little to one side, she saw Mr. Preston keeping guard, as 
it were, over the seats which Molly and Cynthia had just quitted. 
He was looking so black that, if their eyes had not met, Mrs. Gibson 
v/ould have preferred not speaking to him ; as it was, she thought it 
unavoidable. 

" The rooms are not v/ell-liglited to-night, are they, Mr. Preston ? " 
"No," said he; " but who could light such dingy old paint as 
this, loaded with evergi-ecus, too, which always darken a room?" 



A CHARITY BALL. 291 

"And tie compnny, too! I always think that freshness and 
brilliancy of dress go as far as anything to brighten up a room. 
Look what a set of people are here : the greater part of the women 
are dressed in dark silks, really only fit for a morning. The place 
will be quite diflerent, by-and-by, when the county families are in a 
little more force." 

Mr. Preston made no reply. He had put his glass in his eye, 
apparently for the purpose of watching the dancers. If its exact 
direction could have been ascertained, it would have been found that 
he was looking intently and angrily at a flying figure in pink muslin : 
many a one was gazing at Cynthia with intentuess besides himself, 
but no one in anger. Mrs. Gibson was not so fine an observer as 
to read all this ; but here was a gentlemanly and handsome young 
man, to whom she could prattle, instead of either joining herself on 
to objectionable people, or sitting all forlorn until the Towers' party 
came. So she went on with her small remarks. 

" You are not dancing, Mr. Preston! " 

"No! The partner I had engaged has made some mistake. I 
am waiting to have an explanation with her." 

Mrs. Gibson was silent. An uncomfortable tide of recollections 
appeared to come over her ; she, like Mr. Preston watched Cynthia ; 
the dance was ended, and she was walking round the room in easy 
unconcern as to what might await her. Presently her partner, 
Mr. Harry Cholmley, brought her back to her seat. She took that 
vacant next to Mr. Preston, leaving that by her mother for Molly's 
occupation. The latter returned a moment afterwards to her place. 
Cynthia seemed entirely unconcious of Mr. Preston's neighbourhood. 
Mrs. Gibson leaned forwards, and said to her daughter, — 

" Your last partner was a gentleman, my dear. You are im- 
proving in your selection. I really was ashamed of you before, 
figuring away with that attorney's clerk. Molly, do you know whom 
you have been dancing with ? I have found out he is the Coreham 
bookseller." 

" That accounts for his being so well up in all the books I've 
been wanting to hear about," said Molly, eagerly, but with a spice 
of malice in her mind. " Ho really was very pleasant, mamma," she 
added ; " and he looks quite a gentleman, and dances beautifully! " 

" Very well. But remember if you go on this way you will have 
to shake hands over the counter to-morrow morning with some of 
your partners of to-night," said Mrs. Gibson, coldly. 

19—2 



292 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" But I really don't know how to refuse wlieu people are intro- 
duced to mo and ask me, and I am longing to dance. You know 
to-niglit it is a charity ball, and papa said ever}'body danced with 
everybody," said Molly, in a pleading tone of voice ; for she could 
not quite and entirely enjoy herself if she was out of harmony with 
any one. What reply Mrs. Gibson would have made to this speech 
cannot now be ascertained ; for, before she could make reply, Mr. 
Preston stepped a little forwards, and said, in a tone which ho meant 
to be icily indifferent, but which trembled with anger, — 

" If Miss Gibson finds any difficulty in refusing a partner, she 
has only to apply to Miss Kirkpatrick for instructions." 

Cynthia lifted up her beautiful eyes, and, fixing them on Mr. 
Preston's face, said, very quietly, as if only stating a matter of 
fact, — 

" You forget, I think, Mr. Preston : Miss Gibson implied that 
she wished to dance with the person who asked her — that makes all 
the difference. I can't instruct her how to act in that difficulty." 

And to the rest of this little conversation, Cynthia appeared to 
lend no ear; and she was almost directly claimed by her next partner. 
Mr. Preston took the seat now left empty much to Molly's annoy- 
ance. At first she feared lest he should be going to ask her to 
dance ; but, instead, he put out his hand for Cynthia's nosegay, 
which she had left on rising, entrusted to Molly. It had suffered 
considerably from the heat of the room, and was no longer full and 
fresh ; not so much so as Molly's, which had not, in the first instance, 
been pulled to pieces in picking out the scarlet flowers which now 
adorned Molly's hair, and which had since been cherished with more 
care. Enough, however, remained of Cynthia's to show very dis- 
tinctly that it was not the one Mr. Preston had sent ; and it was 
perhaps to convince himself of this, that he rudely asked to examine 
it. But Molly, faithful to what she imagined would be Cynthia's 
wish, refused to allow him to touch it ; she only held it a little 
nearer. 

" Miss Kirkpatrick has not done me the honour of wearing the 
bouquet I sent her, I see. She received it, I suppose, and my 
note ? " 

" Yes," said Molly, rather intimidated by the tone iu which this 
was said. " But we had already accepted these two nosegays." 

Mrs. Gibson was just the person to come to the rescue with her 
honeyed words on such an occasion as the jn-esent. She evidently 



A CHARITY LALL. 293 

was rather afraid [of Mr. Preston, ami wislied to keep at peace 
with him. 

" Oh, 3'es, wc were so sorry ! Of course, I dou't mean to say 
we could be sorry for any one's kindness ; but two such lovely nose- 
gays had been sent from Hamlcy Hall — you may see how beautiful 
from what Molly holds in her hand — and they had come before yours, 
Mr. Preston." 

" I should have felt honoured if you had accepted of mine, since 
the young ladies were so well provided for. I was at some pains in 
selecting the flowers at Green's ; I think I may say it was rather 
more recherche than that of Miss Kirkpatrick's, which Miss Gibson 
holds so tenderly and securely in her hand." 

" Oh, because Cynthia would take out the most effective flowers 
to put in my hair ! " exclaimed Molly, eagerly. 

" Did she ? " said Mr. Preston, with a certain accent of pleasure 
in his voice, as though he were glad she set so little store by the 
nosegay ; and he walked off to stand behind Cynthia in the quadrille 
that was being danced ; and Molly saw him making her reply to 
him — against her will, Molly was sure. But, somehow, his face and 
manner implied power over her. She looked grave, deaf, indifierent, 
indignant, defiant ; but, after a half-whispered speech to Cynthia, at 
the conclusion of the dance, she evidently threw him an impatient 
consent to what he was asking, for he walked off with a disagreeable 
smile of satisfaction on his handsome face. 

All this time the murmurs were spreading at the lateness of the 
party from the Towers, and person after person came up to Mrs. 
Gibson as if she were the accredited authority as to the earl and 
countess's plans. In one sense this was flattering ; but then the 
acknowledgment of common ignorance and wonder reduced her to 
the level of the inquirers. Mrs. Goodenough felt herself particularly 
aggrieved ; she had had her spectacles on for the last hour and a 
half, in order to be ready for the sight the very first minute any one 
from the Towers appeared at the door. 

" I had a headache," she complained, " and I should have sent 
my money, and never stirred out o' doors to-night ; for I've seen 
a many of these here balls, and my lord and my lady too, when they 
were better worth looking at nor they are noAV ; but every one was 
talking of the duchess, and the duchess and her diamonds, and I 
thought I shouldn't like to be behindhand, and never ha' seen neither 
the duchess nor her diamonds ; so I'm here, and coal and candle- 



29-1 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

light wasting away at home, for I told Sally to sit up for me ; and, 
above everything, I cannot abide waste. I took it from my mother, 
who was such a one against waste as you never see now-a-days. 
She was a manager, if ever there was a one ; and brought up nine 
children on less than any one else could do, I'll be bound. Why ! 
she wouldn't let us be extravagant — not even in the matter of colds. 
Whenever any on us had got a pretty bad cold, she took the oppor- 
tunity and cut our hair ; for she said, said she, it was of no use 
having two colds when one would do— and cutting of our hair was 
sure to give us a cold. But, for all that, I wish the duchess would 
come." 

" Ah ! but fancy, what it is to me," sighed out Mrs. Gibson ; 
" so long as I have been without seeing the dear family — and seeing 
so little of them the other day when I was at the Towers (for the 
duchess would have my opinion on Lady Alice's trousseau, and kept 
asking me so many questions it took up all the time) — and Lady 
Harriet's last v\fords were a happy anticipation of our meeting to-night. 
It's nearly twelve o'clock." 

Every one of any pretensions to gentility was painfully affected 
by the absence of the family from the Towers ; the veiy fiddlers 
seemed unwilling to begin playing a dance that might be interrupted 
by the entrance of the gi'eat folks. Miss Phcebc Browning had 
apologized for them — Miss Browning had blamed them with calm 
dignity ; it was only the butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers 
Avho rather enjoyed the absence of restraint, and were happy and 
hilarious. 

At last, there was a rumbling, and a rushing, and a whispering, 
and the music stopped ; so the dancers were obliged to do so too ; and 
in came Lord Cumuor in his state dress, with a fat, middle-aged 
woman on his arm ; she was dressed almost like a girl — in a sprigged 
muslin, with natural flowers in her hair, but not a vestige of a jewel 
or a diamond. Yet it must be the duchess ; but what v/as a duchess 
without diamonds '? — and in a dress which farmer Hodson's daughter 
might have worn ! Was it the duchess ? Could it be the duchess ? 
The little crowd of inquirers around Mrs. Gibson thickened, to hear 
her confirm their disappointing surmise. After tbe duchess came 
Lady Cumnor, looking like Lady Macbeth in black velvet — a cloud 
upon her brow, made more conspicuous by the lines of age rapidly 
gathering on her handsome face ; and Lady Harriet, and other ladies, 
amon£;st whom there was one dressed so like the duchess as to 



A CKAEITY BALL. 295 

suggest tlic idea of a sister rather thau a daughter, as far as dress 
went. There was Lord Ilollhigford, plain iu face, awkward in person, 
gentlemanly in manner ; and half-a-dozen younger men. Lord Alhert 
Monsou, Captain James, and others of their age and standing, who 
came in looking anything if not critical. This long-expected party 
swept up to the seats reserved for them at the head of the room, 
apparently regardless of the interruption they caused ; for the dancers 
stood aside, and almost dispersed back to their seats, and when 
"Money-musk" struck up again, not half the former set of people 
stood up to finish the dance. 

Lady Harriet, who was rather difierent to Miss Piper, and no 
more minded crossing the room alone thau if the lookers-on were so 
many cabhagos, spied the Gibson party pretty quickly out, and came 
across to them. 

" Here we are at last. How d'ye do, dear? Why, little one 
(to Molly), how nice you're looking ! Aren't we shamefully late '? " 

"Oh! it's only just past twelve," said Mrs. Gibson; " and I 
daresay you dined very late." 

" It was not that ; it was that ill-manuered woman, who went to 
her own room after wc came out from dinner, and she and Lady Alice 
stayed there invisible, till we thought they were putting on some 
splendid attire — as they ought to have done — and at half-past ten, 
when mamma sent up to them to say the carriages were at the door, 
the duchess sent down for some beef- tea, and at last appeared a Vcn- 
fidit as you sec her. Mamma is so angry with her, and some of the 
others are annoyed at not coming earlier, and one or two are giving 
themselves airs about coming at all. Papa is the only one who is not 
affected by it." Then turning to Molly Lady Harriet asked, — 

" Have you been dancing much, Miss Gibson?" 

" Yes ; not every dance, but nearly all." ^ 

It was a simple question enough ; but Lady Harriet's speaking 
at all to Molly had become to Mrs. Gibson almost like shaking a red 
rag at a bull ; it was the one thing sure to put her out of temper. 
But she would not have shown this to Lady Harriet for the world ; 
only she contrived to baffle any endeavours at farther conversation 
between the two, by placing herself betwixt Lady Harriet and MoUy 
whom the former asked to sit down in the absent Cynthia's room. 

" I Vt'on't go back to those people, I am so mad with them ; and, 
•besides, I hardly saw you the other day, and I must have some gossip 
with you. So she sat down by Mrs. Gibson, and as Mrs. Goodenough 



296 v;ivES and daughters. 

afterwards expressed it, " looked like anybody else." Mrs. Good- 
enough said this to excuse herself for a little misadventure she fell 
into. She had taken a deliberate sui-vey of the grandees at the 
upper end of the room, spectacles on nose, and had inquired in no 
very measured voice, who everybody was, from Mr. Sheepshanks, my 
lord's agent, and her very good neighbour, who in vain tried to check 
her loud ardour for information by replying to her in whispers. But 
she was rather deaf as well as blind, so his low tones only brought 
■ upon him fresh inquiries. Now, satisfied as far as she could be, and 
on her way to departure, and the extinguishing of fire and candle- 
light, she stopped opposite to Mrs. Gibson, and thus addressed her 
by way of renewal of their former subject of conversation: — 

" Such a shabby thing for a duchess I never saw ; not a bit of a 
diamond near her ! They're none of 'em worth looking at except 
the countess, and she's always a personable woman, and not so lusty 
as she was. But they're not worth waiting up for till this time o' 
night." 

There was a moment's pause. Then Lady Harriet put her hand 
out, and said, — 

" You don't remember me, but I know you from having seen you 
at the Towers. Lady Cumnor is a good deal thinner than she was, 
but we hope her health is better for it." 

" It's Lady Harriet," said Mrs. Gibson to Mrs. Goodenough, in 
reproachful dismay. 

" Deary me, your ladyship ! I hope I've given no ofieuce ! But, 
you see — that is to say, your ladyship sees, that it's late hours for 
such folks as me, and I only stayed out of my bed to see the duchess, 
and I thought she come in diamonds and a coronet ; and it puts one 
out at my age, to be disappointed in the only chance I'm like to have 
of so fine a sight." 

" I'm put out too," said Lady Harriet. " I wanted to have 
come early, and here we are as late as this. I'm so cross and ill- 
tempered, I should be glad to hide myself in bed as soon as you 
will do." 

She said this so sweetly that Mrs. Goodenough relaxed into a 
smile, and her crabbedness into a compliment. 

" I don't believe as ever your ladyship can be cross and ill- 
tempered with that pretty face. I'm an old woman, so you must let 
me say so." Lady Harriet stood up, and made a low curtsey. Then 
holding out her hand, she said, — 



A CHARITY BALL. 297 

" I won't keep you up any longer; but I'll promise one thing in 
return for your pretty speech ; if ever I am a duchess, I'll come and 
show myself to you iu all my robes and gewgaws. Good night, 
madam ! " 

" There ! I knew how it would be ! " said she, not resuming her 
seat. "And on the eve of a county election too." 

" Oh ! you must not take old Mrs. Goodenough as a specimen, 
dear Lady Harriet. She is always a grumbler ! I am sure no one 
else would complain of j'our all being as late as you liked," said Mrs. 
Gibson. 

"What do you say, Molly?" said Lady Harriet, suddenly 
turning her eyes on Molly's face. " Don't you think we've lost some 
of our popularity, — which at this time means votes — by coming so 
late. Come, answer me ! you used to be a famous little truth-teller." 

" I don't Imow about popularity or votes," said Molly, rather un- 
willingly. "But I think many people were sorry you did not come 
sooner; and isn't that rather a proof of popularity?" she added. 

" That's a very neat and diplomatic answer," said Lady Harriet, 
smiling, and tapping Molly's cheek with her fan. 

" Molly knows nothing about it," said Mrs. Gibson, a little off 
her guard. "It would be very impertinent if she or any one else 
questioned Lady Cumnor's perfect right to come when she chose." 

" Well, all I know is, I must go back to mamma now ; but I 
shall make another raid into these regions by-and-by, and you must 

keep a place for me. Ah ! thex-e are Miss Brownings ; you see 

I don't forget my lesson. Miss Gibson." 

" Molly, I cannot have you speaking so to Lady Harriet," said 
Mrs. Gibson, as soon as she was left alone with her stepdaughter. 
" You would never have known her at all if it had not been for me, 
and don't be always putting yourself into our conversation." v 

"But I must speak if she asks me questions," pleaded Molly. 

" Well ! if you must, you must, I acknowledge. I'm candid 
about that at any rate. But there's no need for you to set up to 
have an opinion at your age." 

" I don't know how to help it," said Molly. 

" She's such a whimsical person ; look thei-e, if she's not talking 
to Miss Phoebe ; and Miss Phoebe is so weak she'll be easily led 
away into fancying she is hand and glove with Lady Harriet. If 
there is one thing I hate more than another, it is the trying to make 
out an intimacy with great people." 



298 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

Molly felfc iuuocent enough, so she offered no justification of 
herself, and made no reply. Indeed she was more occupied in 
watching Cynthia. She could not understand the change that 
seemed to have come over her. She M-as dancing, it was true, with 
the same lightness and grace as before, but the smooth bounding 
motion, as of a feather blown onwards by the wind, was gone. She 
was conversing with her partner, but without the soft animation that 
tisually shone out upon her countenance. And when she was brought 
back to her seat Molly noticed her changed colour, and her dreamily 
abstracted eyes. 

"What is the matter, Cynthia ? " asked she, in a veiy low voice. 
"Nothing," said Cynthia, suddenly looking up, and in an accent 
of what was, in her, shai-pness. " Why should there be ? " 

" I don't know ; but you look different to what you did — tired or 
something." 

" There is nothing the matter, or, if there is, don't talk about it, 
It is all your fancy." 

This was a rather contradictory speech, to be interpreted by 
intuition rather than by logic. Molly understood that Cj-Tithia 
wished for quietness and silence. But what was her surprise, after 
the speeches that had passed before, and the implication of Cynthia's 
whole manner to Mr. Preston, to see him come up to her, and, 
without a word, ofier his arm and lead her away to dance. It 
appeared to strike Mrs. Gibson as something remarkable; for, for- 
getting her late passage at arms with Molly, she asked, wonderingly, 
as if almost distrusting the evidence of her senses, — 
" Is Cynthia going to dance with Mr. Preston? " 
Molly had scarcely time to answer before she herself was led off 
by her partner. She could hardly attend to him or to the figures of 
the quadrille for watching for Cynthia among the moving forms. 

Once she caught a glimpse of her standing still — downcast — ■ 
listening to Mr. Preston's eager speech. Again she was walking 
languidly among the dancers, almost as if she took no notice of those 
around her. When she and Molly joined each other again, the shade 
on Cynthia's face had deepened to gloom. But, at the same time, 
if a physiognomist had studied her expression, he would have read in 
it defiance and anger, and perhaps also a little perplexity. "S^hile 
this quadi-ille was going on, Lady Harriet had been speaking to her 
brother. 

" lioliincrford ! " she said, laving her hand on his arm, and 



A CHARITY BALL. 

dra-wing liiin a little apart from the well-born crowd amid which he 
stood, silent and abstracted, " you don't know how these good people 
here have been hurt and disappointed with our being so late, and 
with the duchess's ridiculous simplicity of dress." 

" Why should they mind it ? " asked he, taking advantage of her 
being out of breath with eagerness, 

" Oh, don't be so wise and stupid ; don't you see, we're a shov; 
and a spectacle — it's like having a pantomime with harlequin and 
columbine in plain clothes." 

*' I don't understand how " he began. 

" Then take it upon trust. They really are a little disappointed, 
whether they are logical or not in being so, and we must try and 
make it up to them ; for one thing, because I can't bear our vassals 
to look dissatisfied and disloyal, and then there's the election in 
June." 

" I really would as soon be out of the House as in it." 

" Nonsense ; it would grieve papa beyond measure — but there is 
no time to talk about that now. You must go and dance with some 
of the townspeople, and I'll ask Sheepshanks to introduce me to a 
respectable young farmer. Can't you get Captain James to make 
himself useful '? There he goes with Lady Alice ! If I don't get 
him introduced to the ugliest tailor's daughter I can find for the next 
dance ! " She put her ann in her brother's as she spoke, as if to 
lead him to some partner. He resisted, however — resisted piteously. 

" Pray don't, Harriet. You know I can't dance. I hate it ; I 
always did. I don't know how to get through a quadrille." 

" It's a country dance ! " said she, resolutely. 

"It's all the same. And what shall I say to my partner? I 
haven't a notion: I shall have no subject in common. Speak of 
being disappointed, they'll be ten times more disappointed vrhen xhey 
find I can neither dance nor talk ! " 

"I'll be merciful; don't be so cowardly. In their eyes a lord 
may dance like a bear — as some lords not very far from me are — if 
he likes, and they'll take it for grace. And you shall begin with 
Molly Gibson, your friend the doctor's daughter. She's a good, 
simple, intelligent Httle girl, which you'll think a great deal more of, 
I suppose, than of the frivolous fact of her being very pretty. Clare ! 
will you allow me to introduce my brother to Miss Gibson ? he hopes 
to engage her for this dance. Lord HoUingford, Miss Gibson ! " 

Poor Lord HoUingford ! there was nothing for him but to follow 



300 WIVES AXD DAUGHTERS. 

his sister's very explicit leatl, aucl Molly and he walked off to their 
places, each heartily wishing their dance together Avell over. Lady 
Harriet flew off to Mr. Sheepshanks to secure her respectahle young 
farmer, and Mrs. Gibson remained alone, wishing that Lady Cumnor 
would send one of her attendant gentlemen for her. It would be so 
much more agreeable to be sitting even at the fag-end of nobility 
than here on a bench with everybody ; hoping that everybody would 
see Molly dancing away with a lord, yet vexed that the chance had so 
befallen that IMoUy instead of Cynthia was the young lady singled 
out ; wondering if simplicity of dress was now become the highest 
fashion, and pondering on the possibility of cleverly inducing Lady 
Harriet to introduce Lord Albert Monson to her own beautiful 
daughter, Cynthia. 

Molly found Lord Hollingford, the wise and learned Lord HoUing- 
ford, strangely stupid in understanding the mystery of " Cross hands 
and back again, down the middle and up again," He was constantly 
getting hold of the wrong hands, and as constantly stopping when he 
had returned to his place, quite unaware that the duties of society 
and the laws of the game required that he should go ou capering till 
he had arrived at the bottom of the room. He perceived that he 
had performed his part very badlj^ and apologized to Molly when 
once they had arrived at that haven of comparative peace ; and he 
expressed his regret so simply and heartily that she felt at her ease 
with him at once, especially when he confided to her his reluctance at 
having to dance at all, and his only doing it under his sister's com- 
pulsion. To Molly he was an elderly widower, almost as old as her 
rather, and by-and-by they got into very pleasant conversation. She 
learnt from him that Roger Hamley had just been publishing a paper 
in some scientific periodical, which had excited considerable attention, 
as it was intended to confute some theorj' of a great French physi- 
ologist, and Roger's article proved the writer to be possessed of a 
most unusual amount of knowledge on the subject. This piece of 
news was of great interest to Molly ; and, in her questions, she 
herself evinced so much intelligence, and a mind so well prepared 
for the reception of information, that Lord Hollingford at any rate 
would have felt his quest of popularity a very easy affair indeed, if 
he might have gone on talking quietly to Molly during the rest of the 
evening. When he took her back to her place, he found Mr. Gibson 
there, and fell into talk with him, until Lady Harriet once more 
came to stir him up to his duties. Before very long, however, he 



A CHARITY BALL. 301 

1-eturued to Mr. Gibson's side, and began telling bim of tins paper of 
Roger Ilamley's, of wbicli Mr. Gibson bad not yet beard. In tbe 
midst of tbeir conversation, as tbey stood close by Mrs. Gibson, 
Lord Holliugford saw Molly in tbe distance, and interrupted bimsclf 
to say, " Wbat a cbarming little lady tbat daugbter of yours is! 
Most girls of ber age are so difficult to talk to ; but sbc is intelligent 
and full of interest in all sorts of sensible tilings ; ^Ycll read, too — 
sbe was up in Lc Ileijne Animal — and very pretty ! " 

Mr. Gibson bowed, mucb pleased at sucb a compliment from 
sucb a man, was be lord or not. It is very likely tbat if Molly bad 
been a stupid listener. Lord Hollingford would not liave discovered 
her beauty ; or tbe converse might be asserted — if she had not been 
young and pretty, he wonld not have exerted himself to talk on 
scientific subjects in a manner which sbe could understand. But in 
whatever way Molly had won his approbation and admiration, there 
was no doubt that she had earned it somehow. And, when sbe next 
returned to her place, Mrs. Gibson greeted her with soft words and a 
gracious smile ; for it does not require much reasoning power to 
discover, that if it is a very fine thing to be mother-in-law to a very 
magnificent three-tailed bashaw, it presupposes that tbe wife who 
makes the connection between the two parties is in harmony with her 
mother. And so far bad Mrs. Gibson's thoughts wandered into 
futurity. She only wished that the happy chance had fallen to 
Cynthia's instead of to Molly's lot. But Molly was a docile, sweet 
creature, very pretty, and remarkably intelligent, as my lord had 
said. It was a pity that Cynthia preferred making millinery to 
reading ; but perhaps that could be rectified. And there Avas Lord 
Cumnor coming to speak to ber, and Lady Cumnor nodding to ber, 
and indicating a place by her side. 

It was not an unsatisfactory ball upon the whole to Mrs. Gibson, 
although she paid the usual penalty for sitting up beyond her usual 
hour in perpetual glare and movement. The next morning she 
awoke irritable and fatigued ; and a little of the same feeling 
oppressed both Cynthia and Molly. The former was lounging in the 
window-seat, holding a tbree-days'-old newspaper in her hand, which 
she was making a pretence of reading, when she was startled by her 
mother's saying, — 

" Cynthia! can't you take up a book and improve yourself? I 
am sure your conversation will never be worth listening to, unless 
you read something better than newspapers. Why don't you keep 



302 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

up your Freuch? There was some Freucli book that Molly was 
reacliug — Le Fiejnc Animal, I think." 

"No! I never read it!" said Molly, blushing. "Mr. Roger 
Hamley sometimes read pieces out of it when I was first at the Hall, 
and told me what it was about." 

" Oh ! well. Then I suppose I was mistaken. But it comes to 
all the same thing. Cynthia, you really must leani to settle yourself 
to some improving reading eveiy morning." 

Ptather to Molly's surprise, Cynthia did not reply a word ; but 
dutifully went and brought down from among her Boulogne school- 
books, Le Steele de Louis XIV. But after a while Molly saw that 
this " improving reading " was just as much a mere excuse for 
Cynthia's thinking her own thoughts as the newspaper had been. 



( 303 ) 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

FATHER AND SONS. 

Things were not goiDg on any Letter at Hamlej' Ilall. Nothing had 
occurred to change the state of dissatisfied feeling into which the 
squire and his eldest son had respectively fallen ; and the long con- 
tinuance merely of dissatisfaction is sure of itself to deepen the 
feeling. Roger did all in his po\ver to hring the father and son 
together ; hut sometimes v.'ondered if it ^vould not have been better 
to leave them alone ; for they were falling into the habit of each 
making him their confidant, and so defining emotions and opinions 
which would have had less distinctness if they had been unexpressed. 
There was little enough relief in the daily life at the Hall to help 
them aU to shake off the gloom ; and it even told on the health of 
both the squire and Osborne. The squire became thinner, his skin 
as v/ell as his clothes began to hang loose about him, and the fresh- 
ness of his colour turned to red streaks, till his cheeks looked like 
Eardiston pippins, instead of resembling "a Kathcrino pear on the 
side that's next the sun." Roger thought that his father sate indoors 
and smoked in his study more than was good for him, but it had 
become difficult to get him far afield ; he was too much afraid of 
coming across some sign of the discontinued drainage works, or 
being imtated afresh by the sight of his depreciated timber. Osborae 
was wrapt up in the idea of arranging his poems for the press, and 
so v,orkiug out his wish for independence. "What with daily writing 
to his wife — taking his letters himself to a distant post-office, and 
receiving hers there — touching up his sonnets, &c., with fastidious 
care ; and occasionally giving himself the pleasure of a visit to the 
Gibsons, and enjoying the society of the two pleasant girls there, he 
found little time for being with his father. Indeed, Osborne was 
too self-indulgent or " sensitive," as he termed it, to bear well with 



30-i "WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. . 

tho squire's gloomy tits, or too frequent querulousness. The con- 
sciousness of his secret, too, made Osborne uncomfortable in his 
father's presence. It was very well for all parties that Roger was 
not "sensitive," for, if he had been, there were times when it would 
have been hard to bear little spurts of domestic tyranny, by which 
his father strove to assert his power over both his sons. One of 
these occurred very soon after the night of the Hollingford charity- 
ball. 

Roger had induced his father to come out with him ; and the 
squire had, on his son's suggestion, taken with him his long unused 
spud. The two had wandered far afield ; perhaps the elder man had 
found the unwonted length of exercise too much for him ; for, as he 
approached the house, on his return, he became what nurses call in 
children " fractious," and ready to turn on his companion for every 
remark he made. Roger understood the case by instinct, as it were, 
and bore it all with his usual sweetness of temper. They entered 
the house by the front door ; it lay straight on their line of march. 
On the old cracked yellow-marble slab, there lay a card with Lord 
Hollingford's name on it, which Robinson, evidently on the watch 
for their return, hastened out of his pantiy to deliver to Roger. 

" His lordship was very sorry not to see you, Mr. Roger, and his 
lordship left a note for you. Mr. Osborne took it, I think, when he 
passed through. I asked his lordship if he would like to see Mr. 
Osborne, who was indoors, as I thought. But his lordship said he 
was pressed for time, and told me to make his excuses." 

" Didn't he ask for me ? " growled the squire. 

" No, sir ; I can't say as his lordship did. He would never have 
thought of Mr. Osborne, sir, if I hadn't named him. It was Mr. 
Roger he seemed so keen after." 

" Very odd," said the squire. Roger said nothing, although he 
naturally felt some curiosity. He went into the drawing-room, not 
quite aware that his father was following him. Osborne sate at a 
table near the fire, pen in hand, looking over one of his poems, and 
dotting the ts, crossing the ?'s, and now and then pausing over the 
alteration of a word. 

" Oh, Roger!" he said, as his brother came in, "here's been 
Lord Hollingford wanting to see you." 

*' I know," replied Roger. 

" And he's left a note for you. Robinson tried to persuade him 
it was for my father, so he's added ' a junior ' (Roger Hamley, Esq., 



FATHER AND SONS. 305 

junior) iu pencil." The squire was in the room by this time, and 
and what he had overheard rubbed him up still more the wrong way. 
Eogcr took his unopened note and read it. 
" What does he say ? " asked the squire, 

Eogcr handed him the note. It contained an invitation to dinner 
to meet M. Geofiroi St. H., whose views on certain subjects Roger had 
been advocating in the article Lord HoUingford had spoken about to 
Molly, when he danced with her at the HoUingford ball. M. Geofiroi 
St. H. was in England now, and was expected to pay a visit at the 
Towers in the course of the following week. He had expressed a 
wish to meet the author of the paper which had already attracted the 
attention of the French comparative anatomists ; and Lord HoUing- 
ford added a few words as to his own desire to make the acquaintance 
of a neighbour whose tastes were so similar to his own ; and then 
followed a civil message from Lord and Lady Cumnor, 

Lord HoUingford's hand was cramped and rather illegible. The 
squire could not read it all at once, and was enough put out to 
decline any assistance in deciphering it. At last he made it out. 

" So my lord lieutenant is taking some notice of the Hamleys at 
last. The election is coming on, is it ? But I can tell him we're 
not to be got so easily. I suppose this trap is set for you, Osborne? 
What's this you've been writing that the French mounseer is so 
taken with?" 

" It is not me, sir!" said Osborne. "Both note and ^all are 
for Roger." 

" I don't understand it," said the squire. "These Whig fellows 
have never done their duty by me ; not that I want it of them. The 
Duke of Debenham used to pay the Hamleys a respect due to 'em — 
the oldest landowners in the county — but since he died, and this 
shabby Whig lord has succeeded him, I've never dined at the lord 
lieutenant's — no, not once." 

" But I think, sir, I've heard you say Lord Cumnor used to 
invite you, — only you did not choose to go," said Roger. 

" Yes. What d'ye mean by that ? Do you suppofje I was going 
to desert the principles of my family, and curry favour with the 
Whigs ? No ! leave that to them. They can ask the heir of the 
Hamleys fast enough when a county election is coming on." 

" I tell you, sir," said Osborae, in the irritable tone he some- 
times used when his fiither was particularly unreasonable, " it is not 
me Lord HoUingford is inviting ; it is Roger. Roger is making 
Vol. I. 20 



306 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

himself kuowu for wliat he is, a first-rate fellow," continued Osborne 
— a sting of self-reproach mingling with his generous pride in his 
brother — " and he is getting himself a name ; he's been writing 
about these new French theories and discoveries, and his foreign 
savant very naturally wants to make his acquaintance, and so Lord 
Hollingford asks him to dine. It's as clear as can be," lowering his 
tone, and addressing himself to Roger; "it has nothing to do with 
politics, if my father would but see it." 

Of course the squire heard this little aside with the unluck}* un- 
certainty of hearing which is a characteristic of the beginning of 
deafness ; and its effect on him was perceptible in the increased 
acrimony of his next speech. 

" You young men think you know everything. I tell you it's a 
palpable Whig trick. And what business has Roger — if it is Roger 
the man wants — to go currying favour with the French ? In my 
day we were content to hate 'em and to lick 'em. But it's just like 
your conceit, Osborne, setting yourself up to say it's your younger 
brother they're asking, and not you ; I tell you it's you. They 
think the eldest son was sure to be called after his father, Roger — 
Roger Hamley, junior. It's as plain as a pike-staff. They know 
they can't catch me with chaff, but they've got up this French dodge. 
What business had you to go wTiting about the French, Roger ? I 
should have thought you were too sensible to take any notice of their 
fancies and theories ; but if it is you they've asked, I'll not have j'ou 
going and meeting these foreigners at a Whig house. They ought 
to have asked Osborne. He's the representative of the Hamleys, if 
I'm not ; and they can't get me, let 'em try ever so. Besides, 
Osborne has got a bit of the mounseer about him, which he caught 
with being so fond of going off to the Continent, instead of coming 
back to his good old English home." 

He went on repeating much of what he had said before, till he 
left the room. Osborne had kept on replying to his unreasonable 
grumblings, which had only added to his auger ; and as soon as the 
squire was fairly gone, Osborne turned to Roger, and said, — 

"Of course you'll go, Roger? ten to one he'li be in another 
mind to-morrow." 

" No," said Roger, bluntly enough — for he was extremely dis- 
appointed ; "I won't run the chance of vexing him. I shall 
refuse." 

"Don't be such a fool!" exclaimed Osborne. "Really, my 



FATHER AND SONS. 807 

father is too unreasonable. You heard how he kept contradicting 
himself; and such a man as j'ou to be kept under like a child 

^y — " 

" Don't let us talk any more about it, Osborne," said Roger, 
vriting away fast, "When the note was written, and sent off, he 
came and put his hand caressingly on Osborne's shoulder, as he sate 
pretending to read, but in reality vexed with both his father and his 
brother, though on very different grounds. 

" How go the poems, old fellow ? I hope they're nearly ready 
to bring out." 

"No, they're not; and if it were not for the money, I shouldn't 
care if they v/ere never published. YHiat's the use of fame, if one 
mayn't reap the fruits of it ?" 

" Come, now, we'll have no more of that; let's talk about the 
money. I shall be going up for my fellowship examination next 
week, and then we'll have a purse in common, for they'll never think 
of not giving me a fellowship nov/ I'm senior wrangler. I'm short 
enough myself at present, and I don't like to bother my father ; but 
when I'm fellow, you shall take me down to Winchester, and intro- 
duce me to the little wife." 

" It will be a month next Monday since I left her," said Osborne, 
laying down his papers and gazing into the lire, as if by so doing he 
could call up her image. " In her letter this morning she bids me 
give you such a pretty message. It won't bear translating into 
English; you must read it for yourself," continued he, pointing out 
a line or tvro in a letter he drew out of his pocket. 

Eoger suspected that one or two of the words were wrongly spelt ; 
but their pui-port Avas so gentle and loving, and had such a touch of 
simple, respectful gratitude in them, that he could not help be|ng 
drawn afresh to the little unseen sister-in-law, vrhose acquaintance 
Osborne had made by helping her to look for seme missing article of 
the childi'en's, vrhom she was taking for their daily walk in Hyde 
Park. For Mrs. Osborne Hamley had been nothing more than a 
French bonne, very pretty, veiy graceful, and very much tyrannized 
over by the rough little boys and girls she had in charge. She was 
a little orphan girl, who had charmed the heads of a travelling 
English family, as she brought madame some articles of lingerie at 
an hotel ; and she had been hastily engaged by them as bonne to 
their children, partly as a pet and plaything herself, partly because 
it would be so gooc> for the children to learn French from a native 

20—2 



308 "WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

(of Alsace!) By-and-by her mistress ceased to take any particular 
notice of Aimee in tlie bustle of London and London gaiety ; but 
though feeling more and more forlorn in a strange laud every day, 
the French girl strove hard to do her duty. One touch of kindness, 
however, was enough to set the fountain gushing ; and she and 
Osborne naturally fell into an ideal state of love, to be rudely dis- 
turbed by the indignation of the mother, when accident discovered to 
her the attachment existing between her children's bonne and a 
young man of an entirely different class. Aimee answered truly to 
all her mistress's questions; but no worldly wisdom, nor any lesson 
to be learnt from another's experience, could in the least disturb her 
entire faith in her lover. Perhaps Mrs. Townshend did no more 
than her duty in immediately sending Aimee back to ]\Ietz, where she 
had first met with her, and where such relations as remained to the 
girl might be supposed to be residing. But, altogether, she knew so 
little of the kind of people or life to which she was consigning her 
deposed protegee that Osborne, after listening Vv'ith impatient indig- 
nation to the lecture which ]Mrs. Townshend gave him when he 
insisted on seeing her in order to learn what had become of his love, 
that the young man set oil' straight for Metz in hot haste, and did 
not let the grass grow under his foot until he had made Aimee his 
wife. All this had occurred the previous autumn, and Roger did not 
know of the step his brother had taken until it was irrevocable. 
Then came the mother's death, M'hich, besides the simplicity of its 
own overwhelming sorrow, brought with it the loss of the kind, 
tender mediatrix, who could always soften and turn his fixthcr's heart. 
It is doubtful, however, if even she could have succeeded in this, for 
the squire looked high, and over high, for the wife of his heir ; he 
detested all foreigners, and over-more held all Roman Catholics in 
dread and abomination something akin to our ancestors' hatred of 
witchcraft. All these prejudices were strengthened by his grief. 
Argument would always have glanced harmless away off his shield of 
utter unreason ; but a loving impulse, in a happy moment, might 
have softened his heart to what he most detested in the former days. 
But the happy moments came not now, and the loving impulses were 
trodden down by the bitterness of his frequent remorse, not less than 
by his growing irritability ; so Aimee lived solitary in the little cot- 
tage near AViuchester in which Osborne had installed her when she 
first came to England as his wife, and in the dainty furnishing of 
which he had run himself so deeply into debt. For Osborne con- 



J FATHER AND SOXS. 309 

suited his own fastidious taste iu liis purchases rather than her 
siiuiile chihllike wishes and wants, aud looked upon the little French- 
Tvoinau rather as the future mistress of Hamley Hall thau as the wife 
of a man who was wholly dependent on others at present. He had 
chosen a southern county as being far removed from those midland 
shires where the name of Hamley of Hamley was well and widely 
known ; for he did not wish his wife to assume only for a time a 
name which was not justly and legally her own. In all these 
arrangements he had willingly striven to do his full duty by her ; 
aud she repaid him with passionate devotion aud admiring reverence. 
If his vanity had met with a check, or his worthy desires for college 
honours had been disappointed, he knew where to go for a comforter ; 
one who poured out praise till her words were choked in her throat 
by the rapidity of her thoughts, and who poured out the small vials 
of her indignation on every one who did not acknowledge aud bow 
down to her husband's merits. If she ever wished to go to the 
chateau — that was his home — and to be introduced to his family, 
Aimee never hinted a word of it to him. Only she did yearn, and 
she did plead, for a little more of her husband's company ; aud the 
good reasons which had convinced her of the necessity of his being 
so much away when he was present to urge them, failed in their 
efhcaey when she tried to reproduce them to herself iu his absence. 

The afternoon of the day on which Lord Hollingford called, 
Roger was going upstairs, three steps at a time, when, at a turn on 
the landing, he encountered his father. It was the first time he had 
seen him since their conversation about the Towers' invitation to 
dinner. The squire stopped his son by standing right in the middle 
of the passage. 

" Thou'rt going to meet the mounsecr my lad ?" said he, half as 
affirmation, half as question. 

"No, sir; I sent off James almost immediately with a note 
declining it. I don't care about it — that's to say, not to signify." 

" Why did you take me up so shai-p, Eoger? said his father 
pettishly. " You all take me up so hastily now-a-days. I think it's 
hard when a man mustn't be allowed a bit of crossness when he's 
tired and heavy at heart — that I do." 

" But, father, I should never like to go to a house where they 
had slighted you." 

" Nay, noy, lad," said the squire, brightening up a little; "I 
think I slighted them. They asked me to dinner, after my lord was 



310 WIVES a?:d daughters. 

made lieutenant, time after time, but I never would go near 'em. I 
call that my slighting them." 

And no more was said at tlio time ; but the next day the squire 
again stopped Eoger. 

" I've been making Jem try ou his livery-coat that he hasn't 
worn this three or four years, — he's got too stout for it now." 

" Well, he needn't wear it, need he ? and Dawson's lad will be 
glad enough of it, — he's sadly in want of clothes." 

" Ay, ay ; but who's to go with you when you call at the Towers ? 
It's but polite to call after Lord What's-his-name has taken the 
trouble to come here ; and I shouldn't like you to go without a 
groom." 

"My dear father! I shouldn't know what to do Avith a man 
riding at my back. I can find my way to the stable-yard for myself, 
or there'll be some man about to take my horse. Don't trouble 
yourself about that." 

" Yv'ell, you're not Osborne, to be sure. Perhaps it won't strike 
'em as strange for you. But you must look up, and hold your own, 
and remember you're one of the Hamley's, who've been on the same 
land for hundreds of years, while they're but trumpery Whig folk 
who only came into the county in Queen Anne's time." 



( 311 ) 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

RIVALRY. 

FoK some clays after the ball Cynthia seemed languid, and was very 
silent. Molly, who had promised herself fully as much enjoyment in 
talking over the past gaiety \Yith Cynthia as in the evening itself, was 
disappointed when she found that all conversation on the subject was 
rather evaded than encouraged. Mrs. Gibson, it is true, was ready 
to go over the ground as many times as any one liked ; but her 
words were always like ready-made clothes, and never fitted indi- 
vidual thoughts. Anybody might have used them, and, with a 
change of proper names, they might have served to describe any ball. 
She repeatedly used the same language in speaking about it, till 
Molly knew the sentences and their sequence even to irritation. 

" Ah ! Mr. Osborne, you should have been there ! I said to my- 
self many a time how you really should have been there — you and 
your brother, of course." 
*" "I thought of you very often during the evening ! " 

" Did you '? Now that I call very kind of you. Cynthia, darling ! 
Do you hear what Mr. Osborne Hamley was saying?" as Cynthia 
came into the room just then. " He thought of us all on the 
evening of the ball." 

" He did better than merely remember us then," said Cj-nthia, 
with her soft slow smile. " We owe him thanks for those beautiful 
flowers, mamma." 

" Oh !" said Osborne, " you must not thank me exclusively. I 
believe it was my thought, but Roger took all the trouble of it." 

"I consider the thought as everything," said Mrs. Gibson. 
Thought is spiritual, while action is merely material." 

This fine sentence took the speaker herself by surprise ; and in 
such conversation as was then going on, it is not necessary to accu- 
rately define the meaning of everything that is said. 



312 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" I'm afraiil tlie flowers were too late to be of mucli use, tliougli," 
coutinuecl Osborne. "I met Preston tbo next morning, and of 
course we talked about tlic half. I was sorry to find be bad been 
beforeband with us." 

" He only sent one nosegay, and tbat was for Cyntbia," said Molly, 
looking up ffom ber work. *' And it did not come till after Ave bad 
received tbe flowers from Hamley." Molly caugbt a sigbt of Cyntbia's 
face before sbo bent down again to ber sewing. It was scarlet in 
colour, and tbere was a flasb of auger in ber eyes. Botb sbe and ber 
motber bastcncd to speak as soon as Molly bad finisbed, but Cyntbia's 
voice was cbokcd witb passion, and Mrs. Gibson bad tbe word, 

"Mr. Preston's bouquet was just one of tbose formal ' affairs 
any one can buy at a nursery-garden, wliicb always strike me as 
baviug no sentiment in tbem. I would far ratber bave two or tbree 
lilies of tbe valley gatbcred for me by a person I like, tbau tbe most 
expensive bouquet tbat could be bouglit ! " 

" Mr, Preston bad no business to speak as if be bad forestalled 
you," said Cyntbia, "It came just as we were ready to go, and I 
put it into tbe fire directly." 

" Cyntbia, my dear love ! " said Mrs. Gibson (wbo bad never 
heard of tbe fate of tbe flowers until now), " wbat an idea of yourself 
you will give to Mr. Osborne Hamley ; but to be sure, I can quite 
understand it. You inberit my feeling — my prejudice — sentimental 
I grant, against bougbt flowers," 

Cyntbia was silent for a moment; tben sbo said, " I used some 
of your flov/crs, Mr, Hamley to dress Molly's bair. It was a great 
temptation, for tbe colour so exactly matcbed ber coral ornaments ; 
but I believe sbe tbougbt it treacherous to disturb tbe arrangement, 
so I ought to take all tbe blame on myself." 

" Tbe arrangement was my brother's, as I told you ; but I am 
sure he would have preferred seeing tbem iu Miss Gibson's bair 
ratber than in the blazing fire. Mr. Preston comes far tbe worst 
cflT." Osborne was rather amused at the whole affair, and would 
have liked to probe Cynthia's motives a little farther. He did 
not hear Molly saying iu as soft a voice as if she were talking to 
herself, " I wore mine just as they were sent," for Mrs. Gibson 
came in with a total change of subject. 

" Speaking of lilies of the valley, is it true that they grow wild in 
Hurst Wood ? It is not the season for them to be in flower yet ; but 
when it is, I think we must take a walk tbere — with our luncheon in 



RIVALRY. 813 

a basket — a little picuic iu fact. You'll join us, v/ou't jou ?" turuiug 
to Osborue. " I tliiuk it's a charming plan ! You could ride to 
Holliugford and put up your horse here, and we could have a long 
day in the woods and all come home to dinner — dinner with a basket 
of lilies in the middle of the table ! " 

" I should like it very much," said Osborne ; " but I may not bo 
at home. Koger is more likely to be here, I believe, at that time — 
a month hence." He was thinking of the visit to London to sell his 
poems, and the run down to AYiuchester which he anticipated after- 
wards — the end of May had been the period fixed for this pleasure 
for soijie time, not merely in his ovrn mind, but in writing to his wife. 

" Oh, but you must be with lis ! "We must wait for Mr, Osborne 
Hamley, must not we, Cynthia ? " 

" I'm afraid the lilies won't wait," replied Cynthia. 

" Well, then, we must put it off till dog-rose and honeysuckle 
time. You will be at home then, won't you ? or docs the London 
season present too many attractions ?" 

" I don't exactly know when dog-roses are in flovrer ! " 

" Not know, and you a poet ? Don't you remember the lines — 

It was tlie time of roses, 

We plucked them as we went ? " 

" Yes ; but that doesn't specify the time of year that is the time 
of roses ; and I believe my movements are guided more by the lunar 
calendar than the floral. You had better take my brother for your 
companion ; he is practical in his love of flowers, I am only 
theoretical." 

" Does that fine word ' theoretical' imply that you are ignorant?' 
asked Cynthia. 

" Of course we shall be happy to see your brother ; but why 
can't we have you too ? I confess to a little timidity in the presence 
of one so deep and learned as your brother is from all accounts. Give 
me a little charming ignorance, if we must call it by that hard word." 

Osborne bowed. It was very pleasant to him to be petted and 
flattered, even though he knew all the time that it was only flattery. 
It was an agreeable contrast to the home that was so dismal to him, 
to come to this house, where the society of two agreeable girls, and 
the soothing syrup of their mother's speeches, awaited him whenever 
he liked to come. To say nothing of the difi'erence that struck upon 
his senses, poetical though he might esteem himself, of a sitting- 



314 WIVES A^B DAUGHTERS. 

room fall of flowers, and tokens of women's presence, where all the 
chairs were easy, and all the tables well covered with pretty things, 
to the great drawing-room at home ; where the draperies were thread- 
hare, and the seats uncomfortable, and no sign of feminine presence 
ever now lent a grace to the stift' arrangement of the furniture. 
Then the meals, light and well-cooked, suited his taste and delicate 
appetite so much better than the rich and hea\y viands prepared by 
the servants at the hall. Osborne was becoming a little afraid of 
falling into the habit of paying too frequent visits to the Gibsons 
(and that, not because he feared the consequences of his intercourse 
with the two young ladies ; for he never thought of them excepting 
as friends; — the fixct of his marriage was constantly present to his 
mind, and Aimeo too securely cntlironed in his heart, for him to 
remember that he might be looked upon by others in the light of a 
possible husband) ; but the reflection forced itself upon him occa- 
sionally, whether he was not trespassing too often on hospitality 
which he had at present no means of returning. 

But Mrs. Gibson, in her ignorance of the true state of afiairs, 
was secretly exultant in the attraction which made him come so often 
and lounge away the hours in her house and garden. She had no 
doubt that it was Cpithia who drew him thither ; and if the latter 
had been a little more amenable to reason, her mother would have 
made more frequent allusions than she did to the crisis which she 
thought was approachnig. But she was restrained by the intuitive 
conviction that if her daughter became conscious of what was 
impending, and was made aware of Mrs. Gibson's cautious and 
quiet efforts to forward the catastrophe, the wilful girl would oppose 
herself to it v.ith all her skill and power. As it was, Mrs. Gibson 
trusted that Cynthia's affections would become engaged before she 
knew where she was, and that in that case she would not attempt to 
frustrate her mother's delicate scheming, even though she did per- 
ceive it. But Cjmthia had come across too many varieties of flirta- 
tion, admiration, and even passionate love, to be for a moment at 
fault as to the quiet friendly nature of Osborne's attentions. She 
received him always as a sister might a brother. It vras different 
when Koger returned from his election as fellow of Trinity. The 
trembling diffidence, the hardly suppressed ardour of his manner, 
made Cynthia understand before long with what kind of love she 
had now to deal. She did not put it into so many words — no, not 
even in her secret heart — but she recoqnized the difference between 



laVALRY. 815 

Roger's relation to her ami Osborae's long before Mrs. Gibson found 
it out. Molly was, however, the first to discover the nature of 
Roger's attention. The first time they saw him after the ball, it 
came out to her observant eyes. Cynthia had not been looking well 
since that evening ; she went slowly about the house, pale and 
heavy-eyed ; and, fond as she usually was of exercise and the free 
fresh ail", there was hardly any persuading her now to go out for a 
walk. Molly watched this fading with tender anxiety, but to all her 
questions as to whether she had felt over-fatigued with her dancing, 
Vthether an}-thing had occurred to annoy her, and all such inquiries, 
she replied in languid negatives. Once Molly touched on Mr. Preston's 
name, and found that this was a subject on which Cynthia was raw ; 
now, Cynthia's face lighted up with spiiit, and her whole body 
showed her ill-repressed agitation, but she only said a few sharp 
words, expressive of anything but kindly feeling tov%"ards the 
gentleman, and then bade Molly never name his name to her again. 
Still, the latter could not imagine that he was more than intensely 
distasteful to her friend, as well as to herself ; he could not be the 
cause of Cyntliia's present indisposition. But this indisposition 
lasted so many days without change or modification, that even 
Mrs. Gibson noticed it, and Molly became positively uneasy. Mrs. 
Gibson considered Cynthia's quietness and languor as the natural 
consequence of " dancing with everybody who asked her" at the ball. 
Partners whose names were in the "Red Rook" would not have 
produced half the amount of fatigue, according to Mrs. Gibson's 
judgment apparently, and if Cynthia had been quite well, very pro- 
bably she would have hit the blot in her mother's speech with one of 
her touches of sarcasm. Then, again, when Cynthia did not rally, 
Mrs. Gibson grew impatient, and accused her of being fanciful ^nd 
lazy; at length, and partly at Molly's instance, there came an appeal 
to Mr. Gibson, and a professional examination of the supposed 
invalid, which Cj^nthia hated more than anything, especially when 
the verdict was, that there was nothing veiT much the matter, only 
a general lowness of tone, and depression of health and spirits, 
which would soon be remedied by tonics, and, meanwhile, she was 
not to be roused to exertion. 

"If there is one thing I dislike," said Cynthia to Mr. Gibson, 
after he had pronounced tonics to be the cure for her present state, 
" it is the way doctors have of giving tablespoonfuls of nauseous 
mixtures as a certain remedy for sorrows and cares." She laughed 



316 WI7ES AND DAUGHTERS. 

up in his face as slie spoke ; she had always a pretty word and smile 
for him, even in the midst of her loss of spirits. 

" Come ! you acknowledge you have ' sorrows ' by that speech : 
we'll make a bargain : if you'll tell me your sorrows and cares, I'll 
try and find some other remedy for them than giving you what you 
are pleased to term my nauseous mixtures." 

" No," said Cynthia, colouring ; " I never said I had sorrows and 
cares ; I spoke generally. "What should I have a sorrow about ? — 
you and Molly are only too kind to me," her eyes filling with tears. 

*' Well, well, we'll not talk of such gloomy things, and you shall 
have some sweet emulsion to disguise the taste of the bitters I shall 
be obliged to fall back upon." 

*' Please, don't. If you but knew how I dislike emulsions and 
disguises ! I do want bitters — and if I sometimes — if I'm obliged 
to — if I'm not truthful myself, I do like truth in others — at least, 
sometimes." She ended her sentence with another smile, but it was 
rather faint and watery. 

Now the first person out of the house to notice Cynthia's change 
of look and manner was Roger Hamley — and yet he did not see her 
until, under the influence of the nauseous mixture, she was begin- 
ning to recover. But his eyes were scarcely off her during the first 
five minutes he was in the room. All the time he was trying to talk 
to Mrs. Gibson in reply to her civil platitudes, he was studying 
Cynthia ; and at the first convenient pause he came and stood before 
Molly, so as to interpose his person between her and the rest of the 
room ; for some visitors had come in subsequent to his entrance. 

" Molly, how ill your sister is looking ! What is it ? Has she had 
advice ? You must forgive me, but so often those who live together 
in the same house don't observe the first approaches of illness." 

Now Molly's love for Cynthia was fast and unwavering, but if 
anything tried it, it was the habit Roger had fallen into of always 
calling Cynthia Molly's sister in speaking to the latter. From any 
one else it would have been a matter of indiflerence to her, and 
hardly to be noticed ; it vexed both ear and heart when Roger used 
the expression ; and there was a curtuess of manner as well as of 
words in her reply. 

" Oh! she was over-tired by the ball. Papa has seen her, and 
says she will be all right very soon." 

*' I wonder if she wants change of air?" said Roger, medita- 
tively. " I wish — I do wish we could have her at the Hall ; you 



RIVALRY. 317 

and your motlier too, of course. But I clou't see how it would bo 
possible — or else how charming it would be! " 

Molly felt as if a visit to the Hall under such circumstances 
would be altogether so different an affiiir to all her former ones, that 
she could hardly tell if she should like it or not. 

Roger went on, — 

" You got our flowers in time, did j'ou not ? Ah ! you don't hnow 
how often I thought of you that evening ! And you enjoyed it too, 
didn't you ? — you had plenty of agreeable partners, and all that makes 
a first ball delightful ? I heard that your sister danced every dance." 

"It was very pleasant," said Molly, quietly. "But, after all, 
I'm not sure if I want to go to another just yet ; there seems to be 
so much trouble connected with a ball." 

" Ah ! you are thinking of your sister, and her not being well ?" 

" No, I was not," said Molly, rather bluntly. " I was thinking 
of the dress, and the dressing, and the weariness the next day." 

He might think her unfeeling if he liked ; she felt as if she had 
only too much feeling just then, for it was bringing on her a 
strange contraction of heart. But he was too inherently good him- 
self to put any harsh construction on her speech. Just before he 
went away, while he was ostensibly holding her hand and wishing her 
good-by, he said to her in a voice too low to be generally heard, — 

" Is there anything I could do for your sister ? We have plenty 
of books, as you know, if she cares for reading." Then, receiving 
no affirmative look or word from Molly in reply to this suggestion, 
he went on, — " Or flowers ? she Hkes flowers. Oh! and our forced 
strawberries are just ready — I will bring some over to-morrow." 

" I am sure she will like them," said Molly. 

For some reason or other, unknown to the Gibsons, a longer 
interval than usual occurred between Osborne's visits, while R6ger 
came almost every day, always with some fresh offering by which he 
openly sought to relieve Cynthia's indisposition, as far as it lay in 
his power. Her manner to him was so gentle and gracious that 
Mrs. Gibson became alarmed, lest, in spite of his " uncouthness " 
(as she was pleased to term it), he might come to be preferred to 
Osborne, who was so strangely neglecting his own interests, in 
Mrs. Gibson's opinion. In her quiet way, she contrived to pass 
many slights upon Roger ; but the darts rebounded from his generous 
nature that could not have imagined her motives, and fastened them- 
selves on Molly. She had often been called naughty and passionate 



818 "WIVES AIsD DAUGHTEllS. 

■when she was a cliild ; and slie thought now that she began to 
'anilei'staud that she really had a violent temper. What seemed 
neither to hurt Roger nor annoy Cynthia made Molly's blood boil ; 
and now she had once discovered Mrs. Gibson's wish to make 
Roger's visits shorter and less frequent, she was always on the 
watch for indications of this desire. She read her stepmother's 
heart v/hen the latter made allusions to the squire's weakness, now 
that Osborne was absent from the Hall, and that Roger was so often 
a,way among his friends during the day, — 

' ' Mr. Gibson and I should be so delighted if you could have 
stopped to dinner ; but, of course, we cannot be so selfish as to ask 
you to stay when we remember how your father would be left alone. 
We were saying yesterday we wondered how he bore his solitude, 
poor old gentleman ! " 

Or, as soon as Roger came with his bunch of early roses, it was 
desirable for Cynthia to go and rest in her own room, while Molly 
had to accompany Mrs. Gibson on some improvised eiTand or call. 
Still Roger, whose object was to give pleasure to Cynthia, and who 
had, from his boyhood, been ahvays certain of Mr. Gibson's friendly 
regard, was slow to perceive that he was not wanted. If he did not 
see Cynthia, that was his loss ; at any rate, he heard how she was, 
and left her some little thing v/hich he believed she would like, and 
Avas willing to risk the chance of his oaati gratification by calling four 
or five times in the hope of seeing her once. At last there came a 
day when Mrs. Gibson went beyond her usual negative snubbiness, 
and when, in some unwonted fit of crossness, for she was a very 
placid-tempered person in general, she was guilty of positive 
rudeness. 

Cynthia was very much better. Tonics had ministered to a mind 
diseased, though she hated to acknowledge it ; her pretty bloom and 
much of her light-heartedness had come back, and there was no 
cause remaining for anxiety. Mrs. Gibson was sitting at her em- 
broidery in the drawing-room, and the two girls were at the window, 
Cynthia laughing at Molly's earnest endeavours to imitate the 
French accent in which the former had been reading a page of 
Voltaire. For the duty, or the farce, of settling to " improving 
reading " in the mornings was still kept up although Lord Holling- 
ford, the unconscious suggester of the idea, had gone back to town 
without making any of the eflbrts to see Molly again that Mrs. 
Gibson anticipated on the night of the ball. That Alnaschar 



RIVALRY. 319 

vision had fallen to tlic grountl. It was as yet early morning; a 
<lelicious, fresh, lovely Juno day, the air redded with the scents of 
flower-growth and bloom ; and half the time the girls had been 
ostensibly employed in the French reading they had been leaning 
out of the open window trying to reach a cluster of chmbing roses. 
They had secured them at last, and the buds lay on Cynthia's lap, 
but many of the petals had fallen off; so, though the perfume lingered 
about the window- seat, the full beauty of the flowers had passed, 
away. Mrs. Gibson had once or twice reproved them for the merry 
noise they were making, which hindered her in the business of count- 
ing the stitches in her pattern; and she had set herself a certain 
quantity to do that morning before going out, and was of that nature 
which attaches infinite importance to fulfilling small resolutions, 
made about indifferent trifles without any reason whatever. 

" Mr, Roger Hamley," was announced. " So tiresome ! " said 
Mrs. Gibson, almost in his hearing, as she pushed away her em- 
broidery frame. She put out her cold, motionless hand to him, with 
a half-murmured word of welcome, still ej'mg her lost embroider}-. 
He took no apparent notice, and passed on to the window. 

"How delicious!" said he. "No need for any more Hamley 
roses now yours are out." 

"I agree with you," said Mrs. Gibson, replying to him before 
either Cynthia or Molly could speak, though he addressed his words 
to them. " You have been very kind in bringing us flowers so long ; 
but now our own are out we need not trouble you any more." 

He looked at her with a little siu'prise clouding his honest face; 
it was perhaps more at the tone than the words. Mrs. Gibson, 
however, had been bold enough to strike the first blow, and she 
determined to go on as opportunity offered. Molly would perhaps 
have been more pained if she had not seen Cynthia's colour rise. 
She waited for her to speak, if need were ; for she knew that Roger's 
defence, if defence were required, might be safely entrusted to 
Cynthia's ready wit. 

He put out his hand for the shattered cluster of roses that lay 
in Cynthia's lap, 

"At any rate," said he, " my trouble — if Mrs, Gibson considers 
it has been a trouble to me — will be over-paid, if I may have this." 

" Old lamps for new," said C^Tithia, smiling 'as she gave it to 
him. " I wish one could always buy nosegays such as you have 
brought us, as cheaply." 



320 VriYES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" You forget the waste of time that, I think, wc must reckon as 
part of the payment," said her mother. " Really, Mr. Hamley, we 
must learn to shut our doors on you if you come so often, and at 
such early hours ! I settle myself to my own employment regularly 
after breakfast till lunch-time ; and it is my wish to keep Cynthia 
and Molly to a course of improving reading and study — so desirable 
for young people of their age, if they are ever to become intelligent, 
companionable women ; but with early visitors it is quite impossible 
to observe any regularity of habits." 

All this was said in that sweet, false tone which of late had gone 
through Molly like the scraping of a slate-pencil on a slate. Roger's 
face changed. His ruddy colour grew paler for a moment, and he 
looked grave and not pleased. In another moment the wonted 
frankness of expression returned. Why should not he, he asked 
himself, believe her ? it was early to call ; it did interrupt regular 
occupation. So he spoke, and said, — 

" I believe I have been very thoughtless — I'll not come so early 
again ; but I had some excuse to-day : my brother told me you had 
made a plan for going to see Hurstwood when the roses were out, 
and they are earlier than usual this year — I've been round to see. 
He spoke of a long day there, going before lunch " 

" The plan was made with Mr. Osborne Hamley. I could not 
think of going without him ! " said Mrs. Gibson, coldly, 

" I had a letter from him this morning, in which he named your 
wish, and he says he fears he cannot be at home till they are out of 
flower. I daresay they are not much to see in reality, but the day 
is so lovely I thought that the plan of going to Hurstwood would be 
a charming excuse for being out of doors." 

" Thank you. How kind you are ! and so good, too, in sacrificing 
your natural desire to be with your father as much as possible." 

" I am glad to say my father is so much better than he was in 
the winter that he spends much of his time out of doors in his fields. 
He has been accustomed to go about alone, and I — we think that as 
great a return to his former habits as he can be induced to make is 
the best for him." 

" And when do you return to Cambridge ? " 

There v.'as some hesitation in Roger's manner as he replied, — 

"It is uncertain. You probably know that I am a fellow of 
Trinity now. I hardly yet know what my future plans may be ; I am 
thinking of going up to London soon.'' 



RIVALRY. 821 

" All ! Loudon is the true place for a young man," said IMrs. 
Gibson, with decision, as if she had reflected a good deal on the 
question. "If it were not that we really are so busy this morning, 
I should have been tempted to make an exception to our general 
rule ; one more exception, for your early visits have made us make 
too many already. Perhaps, however, we may see you again before 
you go?" 

" Certainly I shall come," replied he, rising to take his leave, 
find still holding the demolished roses in his hand. Then, addressing 
himself more especially to Cynthia, he added, " My stay in London 
will not exceed a fortnight or so — is there anything I can do for you 
— or you ? " turning a little to Molly. 

" No, thank you vciy much," said Cynthia, very sweetly, and 
then acting on a sudden impulse, she leant out of the window, and 
gathered him some half-opened roses. "You deserve these; do 
throw that poor shabby bunch away." 

His eyes brightened, his cheeks glowed. He took the offered 
buds, but did not throw away the other bunch. 

" At any rate, I may come after lunch is over, and the afternoons 
and evenings will be the most delicious time of day a month hence." 
He said this to both Molly and Cynthia, but in his heart he addressed 
it to the latter. 

Mrs. Gibson affected not to hear what he was saying, but held 
out her limp hand once more to him. 

" I suppose we shall see you when you return ; and pray tell your 
brother how we are longing to have a visit from him again." 

When he had left the room, Molly's heart was quite full. She 
had watched his face, and read something of his feelings : his dis- 
appointment at their non- acquiescence in his plan of a day's pleasure 
in Hurstwood, the delayed conviction that his presence was n<)t 
welcome to the wife of his old friend, which had come so slowly upon 
him — perhaps, after all, these things touched Molly more keenly than 
they did him. His bright look when C}-nthia gave him the rose-buds 
indicated a gush of sudden delight more vivid than the pain he had 
shown by his previous increase of gravity. 

*' I can't think why he will come at such untimely hours," said 
Mrs. Gibson, as soon as she heard him fairly out of the house. 
"It's different from Osborne; we are so much more intimate with 
him : he came and made friends with us all the time this stupid 
brother of his was muddling his brains with mathematics at Cam- 
VoL. I. 21 



822 WIVES AXD DAUGHTERS. 

bridge. Fellow of Trinity, indeed ! I wisli lie would learn to stay 
there, and not come intruding here, and assuming that because I 
asked Osborne to join in a pic-nic it was all the same to me which 
brother came." 

"In short, mamma, one man may steal a horse, but another 
must not look over the hedge," said Cynthia, pouting a'little. 

" And the two brothers have always been treated so exactly alike 
by their friends, and there has been such a strong friendship between 
them, that it is no wonder Koger thinks he may be welcome where 
Osborne is allowed to come at all hours," continued Molly, in high 
dudgeon. " Roger's ' muddled brains,' indeed ! Roger, ' stupid! ' " 

" Oh, very well, my dears ! When I was young it wouldn't have 
been thought becoming for girls of your age to fly out because a little 
restraint was exercised as to the hours at which they^ should receive 
the young men's calls. And they would have supposed that there 
might be good reasons why their parents disapproved of the visits of 
certain gentlemen, even while they were proud and pleased to see 
some members of the same family." 

"But that was what I said, mamma," said Cj-nthia, looking at 
her mother with an expression of innocent bewilderment on her face. 
" One man may " 

" Be quiet, child ! All proverbs are -snilgar, and I do believe that 
is the vulgarest of all. You are really catching Roger Hamley's 
coarseness, Cynthia ! " 

" Mamma," said Cynthia, roused to auger, "I don't mind your 
abusing me, but Mr. Roger Hamley has been very kind to me while 
I've not been well : I can't bear to hear him disparaged. If he's 
coarse, I've no objection to be coarse as well, for it seems to me it 
must mean kindliness and pleasantness, and the bringing of pretty 
flowers and presents." 

Molly's tears were brimming over at these words ; she could have 
kissed Cynthia for her warm partisanship, but, afi'aid of betraying 
emotion, and " making a scene," as Mrs. Gibson called any signs of 
■warm feeling, she laid dovrn her book hastily, and ran upstairs to her 
room, and locked the door in order to breathe freely. There v»'ere 
traces of tears upon her fixcc when she returned into the drawing- 
room half-an-hour afterwards, walking straight and demurely up to 
her former place, where Cynthia still sate and gazed idly out of the 
window, pouting and displeased ; Mrs. Gibson, meanwhile, counting 
her stitches aloud with frreat distinctness and vigour. 



( 323 ) 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

BUSH-FIGHTING. 

During all the months that had elapsed since Mrs. Hamley's death, 
Molly had wondered many a time about the secret she had so unwit- 
tingly become possessed of that last day in the Hall library. It 
seemed so utterly strange and unheard-of a thing to her inexperienced 
mind, that a man should be married, and yet not live with his wife — 
that a son should have entered into the holy state of matrimony 
without his father's knowledge, and without being recognized as the 
husband of some one known or unkno^vn by all those with whom he 
came in daily contact, that she felt occasionally as if that little ten 
minutes of revelation must have been a vision in a dream. Both 
Eoger and Osborne had kept the most entire silence on the subject 
ever since. Not even a look, or a pause, betrayed any allusion to it ; 
it even seemed to have passed out of their thoughts. There had 
been the great sad event of their mother's death to fill their minds 
on the next occasion of their meeting Molly ; and since then long 
pauses of intercourse had taken place ; so that she sometimes felt as 
if each of the brothers must have forgotten how she had come to 
know their important secret. She often found herself entirely for- 
getting it, but perhaps the consciousness of it was present to her 
unawares, and enabled her to comprehend the real nature of Osborne's 
feelings towards Cynthia. At any rate, she never for a moment had 
supposed that his gentle kind manner towards Cynthia was anything 
but the courtesy of a friend. Strauge to say, in these latter days 
Molly had looked upon Osborne's relation to herself as pretty much 
the same as that in which at one time she had regarded Roger's ; 
and she thought of the former as of some one as nearly a brother 
both to Cynthia and herself, as any young man could well be, whom 
they had not known in childhood, and who was in nowise related to 

21—2 



324 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

them. She tliougbt that lie was very much improved in manner, 
and probably in character, by his mother's death. He was no longer 
sarcastic, or fastidious, or vain, or solf- confident. She did not know 
how often all these styles of talk or of behaviour were put on to 
conceal shyness or consciousness, and to veil the real self from 
strangers, 

Osborne's conversation and ways might very possibly have been 
just the same as before, had he been thrown amongst new people ; 
but Molly only saw him in their ovm circle in which he was on tenns 
of decided intimacy. Still there was no doubt that he was really 
improved, though perhaps not to the extent for which Molly gave him 
credit ; and this exaggeration on her part arose veiy naturally from 
the fact, that he, perceiving Roger's warm admiration for Cynthia, 
withdrew a little out of his brother's way ; and used to go and talk 
to Molly in order not to intrude himself between Roger and Cynthia. 
Of the two, perhaps, Osborne preferred Molly ; to her he needed not 
to talk if the mood was not on him— they were on those happy terms 
where silence is permissible, and where eflbrts to act against the 
prevailing mood of the mind are not required. Sometimes, indeed, 

when Osborne was in the humour to be critical and fastidious as of 

« 

yore, he used to vex Roger by insisting upon it that Molly was prettier 
than Cynthia. 

" You mark my words, Roger. Five years hence the beautiful 
Cynthia's red and white will have become just a little coarse, and 
her figure will have thickened, while Molly's will only have developed 
into more perfect grace. I don't believe the girl has done growing 
yet ; I'm sure she's taller than when I first saw her last summer." 

*' Miss Kirkpatrick's eyes must always be perfection. I cannot 
fancy any could come up to them : soft, grave, appealing, tender ; 
and such a heavenly colour — I often try to find something in nature 
to compare them to ; they are not like violets — that blue in the 
eyes is too like physical weakness of sight ; they are not like the sky 
— that colour has something of cruelty in it." 

" Come don't go on trying to match her eyes as if you were a 
draper, and they a bit of ribbon ; say at once * her eyes are load- 
stars,' and have done with it ! I set up Molly's grey eyes and curling 
black lashes, long odds above the other young woman's ; but, of 
course, it's all a matter of taste." 

And now both Osborne and Roger had left the neighbourhood. 
In spite of all that Mrs. Gibson had said about Roger's visits being 



BUSH-FIGHTING. 325 

ill-timed and intrusive, she began to feel as if tliey had been a vciy 
pleasant variety, now that they had ceased altogether. He brought 
in a whiff of a new atmosphere from that of HoUiugford. He and 
his brother had been always ready to do numberless little things 
which only a man can do for woman ; small services which Mr. Gibson 
was always too busy to render. For the good doctor's business grew 
upon him. He thought that this increase was owing to his greater 
skill and experience, and he would probably have been mortified if he 
could have known how many of his patients were solely biassed in 
sending for him, by the fact that he was employed at the Towers. 
Something of this sort must have been contemplated in the low scale 
of payment adopted long ago by the Cumnor family. Of itself the 
money he received for going to the Towers would hardly have paid 
him for horse-flesh, but then, as Lady Cumnor in her younger days 
worded it, — 

"It is such a thing for a man just setting up in practice for 
himself to be able to say he attends at this house ! " 

So the prestige was tacitly sold and paid for ; but neither buyer 
nor seller defined the nature of the bargain. 

On the whole, it was as w^ell that Mr. Gibson spent so much of 
his time from home. He sometimes thought so himself when he 
heard his wife's plaintive fret or pretty babble over totally indiS'erent 
things, and perceived of how flimsy a nature were all her fine senti- 
ments. Still, he did not allow himself to repine over the step he 
had taken ; he wilfully shut his eyes and waxed up his ears to many 
small things that he knew would have irritated him if he had 
attended to them ; and, in his solitary rides, he forced himself to 
dwell on the positive advantages that had accrued to him and his 
through his marriage. He had obtained an unexceptionable chape- 
rone, if not a tender mother, for his little girl ; a skilful managk* 
of his formerly disorderly household ; a woman who was graceful and 
pleasant to look at for the head of his table. IMoreover, Cynthia 
reckoned for something on the favourable side of the balance. She 
was a capital companion for Molly ; and the two were evidently very 
fond of each other. The feminine companionship of the mother and 
daughter was agreeable to him as well as to his child, — when 
Mrs. Gibson was moderately sensible and not over-sentimental, he 
mentally added ; and then he checked himself, for he would not 
allow himself to become more aware of her faults and foibles by 
defining them. At any rate, she was harmless, and wonderfully just 



826 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

to Molly for a stepmother. She piqued herself upon this indeed, 
and would often call attention to the fact of her being unHke other 
•women in this respect. Just then sudden tears came into Mr. 
Gibson's eyes, as he remembered how quiet and undemonsti-ative 
his little Molly had become in her general behaviour to him ; but how 
once or twice, when they had met upon the stairs, or were otherwise 
unwitnessed, she had caught him and kissed him — ^hand or cheek — 
in a sad passionateness of affection. But in a moment he began to 
whistle an old Scotch air he had heard in his childhood, and which 
had never recun-ed to his memory since ; and five minutes afterwards 
he was too busily ti*eating a case of white swelling in the knee of a 
little boy, and thinking how to relieve the poor mother, who went out 
chairing all day, and had to listen to the moans of her child all 
night, to have any thought for his own cares, which, if they really 
existed, were of so tritliug a nature compared to the hard reality of 
this hopeless woe. 

Osborne came home first. He returned, in fact, not long after 
Eoger had gone away ; but he was languid and unwell, and, though 
he did not complain, he felt unequal to any exertion. Thus a week 
or more elapsed before any of the Gibsons knew that he was at the 
Hall ; and then it was only by chance that they became aware of it. 
Mr. Gibson met him in one of the lanes near Hamley ; the acute 
surgeon noticed the gait of the man as he came near, before he 
recognized who it was. When he overtook him he said, — 

" Why, Osborne, is it you ? I thought it was an old man of 
fifty loitering before me ! I didn't know you had come back." 

" Yes," said Osborne, " I've been at home nearly ten days. I 
daresay I ought to have called on your people, for I made a half 
promise to Mrs. Gibson to let her know as soon as I returned ; but 
the fact is, I'm feeling very good-for-nothing, — this air oppresses 
me ; I could hardly breathe in the house, and yet I'm already tired 
with this short walk." 

** You'd better get home at once; and I'll call and see you as I 
come back from Howe's." 

"No, you mustn't on any account!" said Osborne, hastily; 
" my father is annoyed enough about my going from home, so often, 
he says, though I hadn't been from it for six weeks. He puts down 
all my languor to my having been away, — he keeps the purse-strings, 
you know," he added, with a fiiint smile, " and I'm in the unlucky 
position of a penniless heir, and I've been brought up so — In fact, I 



BUSII-FIGHTIXG. S27 

must leave home from time to time, and, if my father gets confirmed 
in this notion of his that my health is worse for my absence, he will 
stop the supplies altogether." 

*' May I ask where you do spend your time when you are not at 
Hamley Hall ? " asked Mr. Gibson, with some hesitation in his 
manner. 

" No !" replied Osborne, reluctantly. *' I will tell you this : — I 
stay with friends in the country. I lead a life which ought to be 
conducive to health, because it is thoroughly simple, rational, and 
happy. And now I've told you more about it than my father himself 
knows. He never asks me where I have been ; and I shouldn't tell 
him if he did — at least, I think not." 

Mr. Gibson rode on by Osborne's side, not speaking for a moment 
or two. 

" Osborne, whatever scrapes you may have got into, I should 
advise your telling your father boldly out. I know him ; and I know 
he'll be angi-y enough at first, but he'll come round, take my word 
for it ; and, somehow or another, he'll find money to pay your debts 
and set you fi'ee, if it's that kind of difficulty ; and if it's any other 
kind of entanglement, why still he's your best friend. It's this 
estrangement from your father that's telling on your health, I'll be 
bound." 

" No," said Osborne, " I beg your pardon ; but it's not that ; I 
am really out of order. I daresay my unwillingness to encounter 
any displeasure from my father is the consequence of my indispo- 
sition ; but I'll answer for it, it is not the cause of it. My instinct 
tells me there is something really the matter with me." 

" Come, don't be setting up your instinct against the profession," 
said Mr. Gibson, cheerily. 

He dismounted, and throwing the reins of his horse round his 
arm, he looked at Osborne's tongue and felt his pulse, asking him 
various questions, at the end he said, — 

" We'll soon bring you about, though I should like a little more 
quiet talk with you, v.ithout this tugging brute for a third. If you'll 
manage to ride over and lunch with us to-morrow, Dr. Nicholls wiU 
be with us ; he's coming over to see old Rowe; and you shall have 
the benefit of the advice of two doctors instead of one. Go home 
now, you've had enough exercise for the middle of a day as hot as 
this is. And don't mope in the house, listening to the maunderings 
of your stupid instinct." 



828 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

"What else have I to do ?" said Osborne. " My father and I 
are not companions ; one can't read and write for ever, especially 
when there's no end to be gained by it. I don't mind telling you — 
but in confidence, recollect — that I've been trying to get some of my 
poems published ; but there's no one like a publisher for taking the 
conceit out of one. Not a man among them would have them as a 
gift." 

" Oho ! so that's it, is it, Master Osborne. I thought there was 
some mental cause for this depression of health. I wouldn't trouble 
my head about it, if I were you, though that's always very easily 
said, I know. Try your hand at prose, if you can't manage to 
please the publishers with poetry ; but, at any rate, don't go on 
fretting over spilt milk. But I mustn't lose my time here. Come 
over to us to-morrow, as I said ; and what with the wisdom of two 
doctors, and the wit and folly of three women, I think we shall cheer 
you up a bit." 

So saying, Mr. Gibson remounted, and rode away at the long, 
sling trot so well known to the country people as the doctor's pace. 

" I don't like his looks," thought Mr. Gibson to himself at 
night, as over his daybooks he reviewed the events of the day. 
"And then his pulse. But how often we're all mistaken; and, ten 
to one, my own hidden enemy lies closer to me than his does to him 
— even taking the worse view of the case." 

Osborne made his appearance a considerable time before luncheon 
the next morning ; and no one objected to the earliuess of his call. 
Ho was feeling better. There were few signs of the invalid about 
him ; and what few there were disappeared under the bright pleasant 
influence of such a welcome as he received from all. Molly and 
Cynthia had much to tell him cf the small proceedings since he went 
away, or to relate the conclusions of half-accomplished projects. 
C}Tithia was often on the poiut of some gay, careless inquiry as to 
where he had been, and what he had been doing ; but Molly, who 
conjectured the truth, as often interfered to spare him the pain of 
equivocation — a pain that her tender conscience would have felt for 
him, much more than he would have felt it for himself. 

Mrs. Gibson's talk was desultory, complimentary, and senti- 
mental, after her usual fashion ; but still, on the whole, though 
Osborne smiled to himself at much that she said, it was soothing 
and agreeable. Presently, Dr. Nicholls and Mr. Gibson came in; 
the former had had some conference with the latter on the subject 



BUSH-FIGHTING. 329 

of Osborne's health ; auci, from time to time, the skilful old phy- 
sician's sharp and observant eyes gave a comprehensive look at 
Osborne. 

Then there was lunch, when eveiy one was meiTy and hungry, 
excepting the hostess, who was trying to train her midday appetite 
into the genteelest of all ways, and thought (falsely enough) that 
Dr. NichoUs was a good person to practise the semblance of ill- 
health upon, and that he would give her the proper civil amount of 
commiseration for her ailments, which every guest ought to bestow 
upon a hostess who complains of her delicacy of health. The old 
doctor was too cunning a man to fall into this trap. He would keep 
recommending her to try the coarsest viands on the table ; and, at 
last, he told her if she could not fancy the cold beef to try a little 
with pickled onions. There was a twinkle in his eye as he said this, 
that would have betrayed his humour to any observer; but Mr. 
Gibson, Cynthia, and Molly were all attacking Osborne on the 
subject of some literary preference he had expressed, and Dr. 
Nicholls had Mrs. Gibson quite at his mercy. She was not 
sorry when luncheon was over to leave the room to the three 
gentlemen ; and ever afterwards she spoke of Dr. KichoUs as " that 
bear." 

Presently, Osborne came upstairs, and, after his old fashion, 
began to take up new books, and to question the girls as to their 
music. Mr. Gibson had to go out and pay some calls, so he left the 
three together ; and after a while they adjourned into the garden, 
Osborne lounging on a chair, while Molly employed herself busily in 
tying up carnations, and Cynthia gathered flowers in her careless, 
graceful way. 

" I hope you notice the difference in our occupations, Mr. Ham- 
ley. Molly, you see, devotes herself to the useful, and I to the 
ornamental. Please, under what head do you class what you are 
doing ? I think you might help one of us, instead of looking on like 
the Grand Seigneur." 

" I don't know what I can do," said he, rather plaintively. " I 
should like to be useful, but I don't know how ; and my day is past 
for purely ornamental work. You must let me be, I'm afraid. Be- 
sides, I'm really rather exhausted by being questioned and pulled 
about by those good doctors." 

"Why, you don't mean to say they have been attacking you 
since lunch ! " exclaimed Molly. 



830 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

" Yes ; indeed, they have ; and they might have gone on till now 
if Mrs. Gihson had not come in opportunely." 

" I thought mamma had gone out some time ago ! " said Cynthia, 
catching wafts of the conversation as she flitted hither and thither 
among the flowers. 

" She came into the dining-room not five minutes ago. Do you 
want her, for I see her crossing the hall at this very moment ?" and 
Osborne half rose. 

" Oh, not at all!" said Cynthia. "Only she seemed to be in 
such a hurry to go out, I fancied she had set oft' long ago. She had 
some errand to do for Lady Cumnor, and she thought she could 
manage to catch the housekeeper, who is always in the town on 
Thursday." 

" Are the family coming to the Towers this autumn ? " 

" I believe so. But I don't know, and I don't much care. They 
don't take kindly to me," continued Cynthia, " and so I suppose I'm 
not generous enough to take kindly to them." 

"I should have thought that such a very unusual blot in their 
discrimination would have interested you in them as extraordinary 
people," said Osborne, with a little air of conscious gallantry. 

" Isn't that a compliment ? " said CjTithia, after a pause of mock 
meditation. "If any one pays me a compliment, please let it be 
short and clear. I'm very stupid at finding out hidden meanings." 

" Then such speeches as ' you are very pretty,' or * you have 
charming manners,' are what you prefer. Now, I pique myself on 
wrapping up my sugar-plums delicately." 

" Then would you please to write them down, and at my leisui-e 
I'll parse them." 

" No ! It would be too much trouble. I'll meet you haK-way, 
and study clearness next time.'' 

" What are you two talking about ? " said Molly, resting on her 
light spade. 

" It's only a discussion on the best way of administering compli- 
ments," said Cynthia, taking up her flower-basket again, but not 
going out of the reach of the conversation. 

"I don't like them at all in any way," said Molly. "But, 
perhaps, it's rather sour grapes with me," she added. 

" Nonsense ! " said Osborne. " Shall I tell you what I heard of 
you at the ball? " 

" Or shall I provoke Mr. Preston," said Cynthia, " to begin upon 



BUSH-FIQHTING. 331 

you ? It's like turning a tap, such a stream of pretty speeches flows 
out at the moment." Her lip curled •with scom. 

" For you, perhaps," said Molly ; " but not for me." 

" For any woman. It is his notion of making himself agi'eeable. 
If you dare me, Molly, I'will try the experiment, and you'U see with 
what success." 

"No, don't, pray!" said Molly, in a huny. "I do so dislike 
him! " 

" "Why? " said Osborne, roused to a little curiosity by her vehe- 
mence. 

" Oh ! I don't know. He never seems to know what one is 
feeling." 

"He wouldn't care if he did know," said Cynthia. "And he 
might know he is not wanted." 

" If he chooses to stay, he cares little whether he is wanted or not." 

" Come, this is verj' interesting," said Osborne. " It is like the 
strophe and anti-strophe in a Greek chorus. Pray, go on." 

" Don't you know him ? " asked Molly. 

" Yes, by sight, and I tliink we were once introduced. But, you 
know, we are much farther fi'om Ashcombe, at Hamley, than you are 
here, at Hollingford." 

" Oh ! but he's coming to take Mr. Sheepshanks' place, and then 
he will live here altogether," said Molly. 

" Molly! who told you that?" said Cynthia, in quite a different 
tone of voice to that in which she had been speaking hitherto. 

" Papa, — didn't you hear him ? Oh, no ! it was before you were 
down this morning. Papa met Mr. Sheepshanks yesterday, and he 
told him it was all settled : you know we heard a rumour about it in 



% 



the spring ! " 

Cynthia was verj- silent after this. Presently, she said that she 
had gathered all the flowers she wanted, and that the heat was so 
great she would go indoors. And then Osborne went away. But 
Molly had set herself a task to dig up such roots as had already 
flowered, and to put down some bedding-out plants in their stead. 
Tired and heated as she was she finished it, and then went upstairs 
to rest, and change her dress. According to her Avont, she sought 
for Cynthia ; there was no reply to her soft knock at the bedi'oom- 
door opposite to her own, and, thinking that Cynthia might have 
fallen asleep, and be lying uncovered in the draught of the open 
■window, she went in softly. Cynthia was lying upon the bed as if 



382 WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

she had thrown herself down on it without caring for the ease or 
comfort of her position. She was very still ; and Molly took a shawl, 
and was going to place it over her, when she opened her eyes, and 
spoke, — 

"Is that you, dear? Don't go. I like to know that you are 
there." 

She shut her eyes again, and remained quite quiet for a few 
minutes longer. Then she started up into a sitting posture, pushed 
her hair away from her forehead and burning eyes, and gazed intently 
at Molly. 

" Do you know what I've been thinking, dear ? " said she. " I 
think I've been loug enough here, and that I had better go out as a 
governess." 

" Cynthia ! what do you mean ? " asked Molly, aghast. "You've 
been asleep — you've been dreaming. You're over-tired," continued 
she, sitting down on the bed, and taking Cynthia's passive hand, and 
stroking it softly — a mode of caressing that had come down to her 
from her mother — whether as an hereditary instinct, or as a lingering 
remembrance of the tender ways of the dead woman, Mr. Gibson 
often wondered within himself when he observed it. 

" Oh, how good you arc, Molly ! I wonder, if I had been brought 
up like j^ou, whether I should have been as good. But I've been 
tossed about so." 

" Then, don't go and be tossed about any more," said Molly, softly. 

" Oh, dear ! I had better go. But, you see, no one ever loved 
me like you, and, I think, your father — doesn't he, Molly ? And it's 
hard to be driven out." 

" Cynthia, I am sure you're not well, or else you're not half 
awake." 

Cynthia sate with her arms encircling her knees, and looking at 
vacancy. 

"Well!" said she, at last, heaving a great sigh; but, then, 
smiling as she caught Molly's anxious face, "I suppose there's no 
escaping one's doom ; and anywhere else I should be much more 
forlorn and unprotected." 

" What do you mean by your doom ? " 

" Ah, that's telling, little one," said Cynthia, who seemed now to 
have recovered her usual manner. "I don't mean to have one, 
though. I think that, though I am an arrant coward at heart, I can 
show fight." 



BUSH-FIGHTING. 833 

** With whom ? " asked Molly, really anxious to probe the mystery 
— if, indeed, there was one — to the bottom, in the hope of some 
remedy being found for the distress C3Tithia was in when first Molly 
entered. 

Again Cynthia was lost in thought ; then, catching the echo of 
Molly's last words in her mind, she said, — 

" * With whom ? ' — oh ! show fight with whom ? — why, my doom, 
to be sure. Am not I a grand young lady to have a doom ? Why, 
Molly, child, how pale and grave you look ! " said she, kissing her 
all of a sudden. " You ought not to care so much for me ; I'm not 
good enough for you to worry yourself about me. I've given myself 
up a long time ago as a heartless baggage ! " 

" Nonsense ! I wish you wouldn't talk so, Cynthia ! " 

" And I wish you wouldn't always take me ' at the foot of the letter,' 
as an English girl at school used to translate it. Oh, how hot it is ! Is 
it never going to get cool again ? My child ! what dirty hands you've 
got, and face too ; and I've been kissing you — I daresay I'm dirty 
with it, too. Now, isn't that like one of mamma's speeches? But, 
for all that, you look more like a delving Adam than a spinning Eve." 
This had the efiect that Cynthia intended ; the daintily clean Molly 
became conscious of her soiled condition, which she had forgotten 
while she had been attending to Cynthia, and she hastily withdrew to 
her own room. When she had gone, Cynthia noiselessly locked the 
door ; and, taking her purse out of her desk, she began to count over 
her money. She counted it once — she counted it twice, as if desi- 
rous of finding out some mistake which should prove it to be more 
than it was ; but the end of it all was a sigh. 

" What a fool ! — what a fool I was ! " said she, at length. " But 
even if I don't go out as a governess, I shall make it up in time." 

Some weeks after the time he had anticipated when he spoke of 
his departure to the Gibsons, Roger returned back to the Hall. One 
morning when he called, Osborne told them that his brother had been 
at home for two or three days. 

"And why has he not come here, then?" said Mrs. Gibson. 
"It is not kind of him not to come and see us as soon as he can. 
Tell him I say so — pray do," 

Osborne had gained one or two ideas as to her treatment of Roger 
the last time he had called. Roger had not complained of it, or even 
mentioned it, till that very morning ; when Osborne was on the point 
of starting, and had urged Roger to accompany him, the latter had 



834 "WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

told him something of what Mrs. Gibson had said. He spoke rather 
as if he was more amused than annoyed ; but Osborne could read that 
he was chagrined at those restrictions placed upon calls which were the 
greatest pleasure of his life. Neither of them let out the suspicion 
which had entered both their minds — the well-grounded suspicion 
arising from the fact that Osborne's visits, be they paid early or late, 
had never yet been met with a repulse. 

Osborne now reproached himself with having done ]\Irs. Gibson 
injustice. She was evidently a weak, but probably a disinterested, 
woman ; and it was only a little bit of ill-temper on her part which 
had caused her to speak to Roger as she had done. 

"I daresay it was rather impertinent of me to call at such an 
untimely hour," said Roger. 

" Not at all ; I call at all hours, and nothing is ever said about it. 
It was just because she was put out that morning. I'll answer for it 
she's sorij now, and I'm sure you may go there at any time you like 
in future." 

Still, Roger did not choose to go again for two or three weeks, 
and the consequence was that the next time he called the ladies were 
out. Once again he had the same ill-luck, and then he received a 
little pretty three-cornered note from Mrs. Gibson : — 

" My dear Sir, 

" How is it that you are become so formal all on a sudden, leaving 
cards, instead of awaiting our return ? Fie for shame ! If you had 
seen the faces of disappointment that I did when the horrid little bits 
of pasteboard were displayed to our view, j'ou would not have borne 
malice against me so long ; for it is really punishing others as well as 
my naughty self. If you will come to-morrow — as early as you like 
— and lunch with us, I'll own I was cross, and acknowledge myself a 
penitent. — Yours ever, 

" Haycinth C. F. Gibson." 

There was no resisting this, even if there had not been strong 
inclination to back up the pretty words. Roger went, and Mrs. 
Gibson caressed and petted him in her sweetest, silkiest manner. 
Cynthia looked lovelier than ever to him for the slight restriction 
that had been laid for a time on their intercourse. She might be 
gay and sparkling with Osborne ; with Roger she was soft and 
grave. Instinctively she knew her men. She saw that Osborne 
was only interested in her because of her position in a family with 



BUSH-FIGHTING. 335 

wliom lie was intimato ; that his friendship was without the least 
touch of sentiment; and that his admiration was only the warm 
criticism of au artist for unusual beauty. Bat she felt how 
diflferent Roger's relation to her was. To him she was the one, 
alone, peerless. If his love was prohibited, it would be long years 
before he could sink down into tepid fi'iendship ; and to him her 
personal loveliness was only one of the many charms that made 
him tremble into passion. Cynthia was not capable of returning 
such feelings ; she had had too little true love in her life, and 
perhaps too much admiration to do so ; but she appreciated this 
honest ardour, this loyal worship that was new to her experience. 
Such appreciation, and such respect for his true and affectionate 
nature, gave a serious tenderness to her manner to Roger, which 
allured him with a fresh and separate grace. Molly sate by, and 
wondered how it would all end, or, rather, how soon it would all 
end, for she thought that no girl could resist such reverent passion ; 
and on Roger's side there could be no doubt — alas ! there could be 
no doubt. Au older spectator might have looked far ahead, and 
thought of the question of pounds, shillings, and pence. Where was 
the necessary income for a marriage to come from ? Roger had his 
fellowship now, it is true ; but the income of that would be lost if 
he married ; he had no profession, a life interest in the two or three 
thousand pounds that he inherited from his mother, belonging to 
his father. This older spectator might have been a little surprised 
at the enipresscment of Mrs. Gibson's manner to a younger son, 
always supposing this said spectator to have read to the depths of 
her worldly heart. Never had she tried to be more agreeable to 
Osborne ; and though her attempt was a great failure when practised 
■upon Roger, and he did not know what to say in reply to the delicate 
flatteries which he felt to be insincere, he saw that she intended fiim 
to consider himself henceforward free of the house ; and he was too 
glad to avail himself of this privilege to examine over- closely into 
what might be her motives for her change of manner. He shut his 
eyes, and chose to believe that she was now desirous of making up 
for her little burst of temper on his previous visit. 

The result of Osborne's conference with the two doctors had 
been certain prescriptions which appeared to have done him much 
good, and which would in all probability have done him yet more, 
could he have been free from the recollection of the little patient 
wife in her solitude near Winchester. He went to her whenever 



33G WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

be could ; and, thanks to Eoger, money was far more plentiful with 
him now than it had been. But be still shrank, and perhaps even 
more and more, from telling his father of his marriage. Some 
bodily instinct made him dread all agitation inexpressibly. If he 
had not had this money from Roger, he ipiight have been compelled 
to tell bis father all, and to ask for the necessary funds to provide 
for the wife and the coming child. But with enough in hand, and a 
secret, though remorseful, conviction that as long as Roger had a 
peunji his brother was sure to have half of it, made liim more re- 
luctant than ever to irritate his father by a revelation of his secret. 
•' Not just yet, not just at present," he kept saying both to Roger 
and to himself. " By-aud-by, if we have a boy, I will call it Roger" 
— and then visions of poetical and romantic reconciliations brought 
about between father and son, through the medium of a child, 
the offspring of a forbidden marriage, beca^me still more vividly 
possible to him, and at any rate it was a staving-off of an unpleasant 
thing. He atoned to himself for taking so much of Roger's fellow- 
ship money by reflecting that, if Roger married, he would lose this 
source of revenue ; yet Osborne was throwing no impediment in the 
way of this event, rather forwarding it by promoting every possible 
means of his brother's seeing the lady of his love. Osborne ended 
bis reflections by convincing himself of his own generosity. 



END OF VOL. I. 



t. -. 

Loudon;: I'rinted by Smith, Eldeu aud Cc, Old Bailey, E.G. 





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